According to UNICEF, Kenya was a “success story” for their diligence in economic development and improvements made for greater accessibility to health care and education. However, by 2007, setbacks of political conflict and violence erupted with allegations of corruption amid the presidential elections, halting Kenya’s progressing narrative on its war on poverty.
Moreover, with the ongoing international crisis on terror, the Islamist terror group al-Shabaab, which has been targeting the eastern coast of Kenya, caused many aid groups and assistance to flee the area, leaving a huge shortage of medical professionals in Kenya.
Currently, 46 percent of its population of 44 million currently live below the poverty line. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Kenya currently has one doctor and 12 nurses for every 10,000 people.
It has been reported that only 4.5 percent of Kenya’s $54.93 billion GDP has been invested in health care. Residents who have been in need of health care have been alienated with low-quality treatments or have been lacking the medical access that they need.
In many cases, a majority of residents must travel long distances to reach the nearest health facility. Yet Umra Omar, a native of the Lamu Archipelago on the East Coast of Kenya, and alumni at a university in the United States strove to make health care more accessible by returning to her home country to “give back.” Omar has started an initiative called Safari Doctors in Kenya that provides medical care to the residents of the remote regions of Lamu.
Omar told CNN, “It was a kind of sense of responsibility to come back to where I was born.” With approximately six villages in Lamu with zero access to healthcare, residents are alienated as a boat trip from Lamu to one of its surrounding islands can cost as much as $300 or a week of salary.
Omar travels by boat bi-monthly to provide residents with free basic assistance including immunizations, maternal health care and treatment for malaria and other common diseases. These visits can take up to four days at a time, depending on the amount of funding they can secure before the trip. Omar and her team assist more than 1,000 people a year.
In late August of this year, Omar was selected as a CNN Hero for her bravery and initiatives to assist Lagu. She and her organization Safari Doctors in Kenya is an inspiration of how one person with conviction can do to make a difference on the war on poverty and in providing people with basic needs all deserve.
– Priscilla Son