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Courageous Physicians To the Rescue: Safari Doctors in Kenya
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

Photo: Flickr

Unicef History
UNICEF is one of the biggest names in international aid and humanitarian work in the world today. It has won the Nobel Prize, the first to be awarded to an organization, and not an individual, as well as the Prince of Asturias award. Despite being highly active in fundraising, awareness, relief work and research, very few people know the origins of the organization.

Founded in 1946, UNICEF began with the specific mission of providing emergency food and healthcare to children in the countries that had been destroyed by World War II. Its original name was United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. It was later changed to the United Nation’s Children Fund after being officially adopted as a permanent branch of the UN in 1954.

Though its headquarters are in New York City, it operates in over 190 countries, focusing on the welfare of children in at-risk areas. Since 2006, the organization has concentrated on a few specific areas: child survival and development, basic education and gender equality, mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS on children, child protection and policy advocacy, and partnerships. UNICEF has been a key player in global development work since its inception. UNICEF operates during emergencies in addition to supporting developing countries to provide children with basic resources and advocate for children’s rights.

UNICEF has significant star power, utilizing celebrities to raise awareness, thus making it a strong cultural force as well. Ambassadors for the organization have included Audrey Hepburn, Queen Rania of Jordan, Richard Attenborough, David Beckham, Jackie Chan, and many others. In 2006, the major football team FC Barcelona sponsored UNICEF, and wears the organization’s name and logo emblazoned on their shirts (a reversal in the usual sponsorship practices for football teams).

It has recently drawn criticism for its stance on international adoption. It came under fire when it was noted that during major disasters, it discouraged adoption agencies from allowing international adoption, offering incentives to keep children in their own countries. Many saw this as a short-sighted policy, which prompted UNICEF to issue a press release, stating: “The case of children separated from their families and communities during war or natural disasters merits special mention. Family tracing should be the first priority and inter-country adoption should only be envisaged for a child once these tracing efforts have proved fruitless, and stable in-country solutions are not available.”

UNICEF has repeatedly shown itself to be the highly influential and one of the most effective operations working towards protecting the rights of children worldwide.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: UNICEF
Photo: UNICEF