Every other year, the Imani Project conducts medical clinics in rural Kenyan villages. American doctors and nurses join with Kenyan volunteers and health care workers to bring health education and medical services to the villages. During our 2012 trip, we taught, treated, or distributed food to over 2300 people in two weeks. We are now preparing for our next clinics in September 2014.
Unfortunately, we were unable to do our scheduled medical clinic in 2014,( due to safety issues) however our 2016 medical clinic was very successful. We were able to treat over 2000 patients from 68 different villages. Clinics were held at only four villages, Kaembeni, Masheheni , Mkondoni and Sabaki, however many villagers travelled several miles on foot to reach these locations.
Health care in the villages
Theoretically, the Kenyan government provides subsidized health care to poor Kenyans; however, the reality is that most poor people receive little care. The Malindi District Hospital is the closest medical facility to the villages where we do our work, within 30 miles. But without affordable transportation, that distance is an expensive obstacle. Villagers seek care only for the most serious problems, so most conditions go undiagnosed or untreated, or both.
Once at the hospital, the examination and testing fees are waived for anyone who demonstrates financial need. However, prescription drugs are only available from private pharmacies, and most villagers cannot afford the medications they need. So even if they are diagnosed, most remain untreated. One exception to this rule is that the government provides free anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients who come to the hospital in Malindi. The Imani Project currently pays transportation costs for HIV+ people to go to Malindi to receive these medications.
Imani Project medical clinics
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When we hold clinics, we select three remote villages as locations. We set up operations for two consecutive days, typically in a school, church, or other available building. People from three or four neighboring villages will walk to the clinic. On the first morning, we teach classes on basic health principles and HIV/AIDS prevention, and we also distribute health kits. Our health principles class focuses on first aid, diarrheal disease, and tuberculosis prevention. Medical clinics then operate for the remainder of the first and second days, from about 10 A.M. until sundown. Over the two days, we typically see and treat 200 – 300 men, women, and children. The Imani Project does not charge anything for examinations or medications; all services are provided for free.
At the medical clinics, we are able to treat many conditions that patients present with, including worms, minor infections, muscle pain, stomach pain, burns, cuts, fungal infections, coughs, and infestations of ”jiggers” (sand fleas). We are not able to treat patients who require surgery or special medication. Patients have come to clinic with hernias, tumors, cataracts, elephantiasis (swelling caused by parasitic worms), teeth needing extraction, malaria, and tuberculosis, but in those cases, the best we can do is to refer them to the District Hospital in Malindi. For those patients we are able to treat, we dispense prescribed medications at the clinic.
When patients arrive at our clinic, they often come as an entire family with a variety of complaints. We conduct a short interview to get each person’s name, age, relevant medical history, current temperature, and blood pressure. The patients then wait to be examined by a doctor, nurse, community health worker, or wound specialist. The doctor or nurse will then make a diagnosis and provide medication, supplies, or treatment as needed.
In addition to patients with illnesses, many patients come to our clinics with cuts, burns, and other wounds. Because soap, clean water, and bandages are not generally available in the villages, small wounds often go untreated and can deepen into crater wounds that are difficult to heal; this is the most common type of wound we see. We clean and bandage everything from small cuts and burns to large sores. In some villages, we also see infestations of “jiggers” (sand fleas) that burrow into people’s feet and lay eggs. In some cases, our wound specialists can spend an hour or more removing the fleas from a patient’s feet.