Sunday, 18 September 2016
AN OPEN LETTER TO MARYANNEWAWERU
Hello Maryanne, how are you? I hope you are fine and safely arrived in nairobi. Going through the social media i came across your article following your visit to Turkana county,i hope you enjoyed your stay and got a feel of Tukana hospitality and ofcourse you must have ended your visit at eliye springs resort,an oasis and hotbed of luxury in the desert.How i wish i had your email perharps i could have responded there. But again judging by the response from the readers of your article it appears your message was received in different versions some agreeing with you and others with contrary opinion,so kindly allow me to address you through the same platform.What did not come out clearly is your time of visit ,wheter it was before or after devolution.If it was before then you might need to visit again,a transformation is in the offing for you and if was after then i guess your travel was curtailed and limited to small area which does not in any way reflect the county image from a realistic perpective.I want to assume you are of a higher caliber journalism with a balanced opinion as opposed to having bias towards negative stories .Having been here for close to five years now and working in the ministry of health where your passion in journalism lies i found it necessary to respond to some of the issues you highlited in your master piece article, but first lets look at facts as they.The Surface area of the county is approximately 77,000 sqkm, 2nd largest of all 47 Kenyan counties ,Neighbouring with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda as well as the counties of West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu and Marsabit.The latest Population estimates is Approximately 1,000,000 or thereabouts and not 855,000 as you mentioned. The Population density is approximately 13 persons per sqkm.As you rightly observed the main economic activity is pastrolism save for pockets of agricultural activities in Katilu and Todonyang.The county has 7 sub counties,namely Turkana West,Turkana North,Turkana South,Turkana Central,Turkana east,Loima and Kibish .You touched on nutrition and maternal health here and there ,i noted there was no specific reference but i would like to shade some light on these critical areas,according to kenyan government guidelines on intergrated management of acute malnutrition,version 1 of 2009 malnutrion is defined as a state of the body where there is less of the required nutrients or excess .The guidelines also highlights unicef conceptual framework which clasiffies causes of malnutrition into 3 categories.Immediate,underlying and basic causes,i would wish to focus on the basic causes wich 3ntwils national policies,geographical isolation and poor infrasctructure which directly or indirectly has an impact in completing the malnutrion complex cycle.For the longest time in the history of this counrty the county has been isolated and marginalised,be it by default or design is a topic for another day.If you had the opportunity to travel by road you will understand my point ,especially how poor infrasrructure hampers delivery of food and its impact on business,food security among others.A journey that last over 9 hours at bare minimum wheres idealy its supose to take 3 to 4 hours. However i have a feeling you flew via commercial aircrafts that serve the northern part of kenya from Nairobi and you therefore missed the opportunity to get the real situation on the ground.Notably the county is far and wide,with 77,000 sqkm in comparison to your home county its over 110 times,infact one of the locations in the county where i work is 2,356 sqkm!Yes you heard me right thats a location and still it is 3 times Nairobi county.And with pastrol nature of most of the community members who are in constant movement in search of pasture,it therefore means immense resources and realistic strategy needs to be put in place to overturn these challenges.The answer lies in devolved system of governance.Just incase it escaped your attention let me inform you that the county through its strategic framework has health as its key priority area,increasing access and improving quality of healthcare are its main objectives.To achieve this there over 70 new health facilities built and spread across the county besides other county infrastructual undertakings,ECD centres,administrative units just to mention but a few.The county government also did a massive recruitment of healthworkers in 2015 and as i write this letter a second batch are picking their appointment letters from the PSB, Infact more than 70 additional medical oficers have been recruited by the county.As a result of these prudent actions there is marked and measurable improvements in consumption of healthcare services.To demonstrate this kindly allow me to use two examples to give you an overview in critical areas.Skilled delivery and Antenatal clinic services,mentioned in your article.From an average of five thousand deliveries annually to over 12,000 which represent 50% increase and Improvement of 55% to 127% coverage for mothers attending antenatal clinic.It would therefore be impossible not to notice this drastic improvemnts however biased one can be,infact it is miscarriage of facts to say but the least.The statistics thefore demonstarates clearly that the county has a plan and it is executing it accordingly.On nutrition its a complex matter compounded by several variables key among them;Pastoral nature of settlemments ,geographical isolation and poor infrastructure linking the county to the rest of the country.However in the fullness of time the county will find a breakthrough in challenges facing its people health or otherwise.Even Rome was not built in one day or so they say,credit should go where it is due. A kiswahili saying goes "mgalla mue, lakini haki yake mpe."Well, i can go on and on but let me end it there for now with that brief.I hope you will be back again soon on fact finding mission. Have fruitful week,wont you!