Wednesday, 12 June 2013


As I sit writing this there is a 12 year old boy in an intensive care unit in New Zealand suffering from Tetanus. The article said that his parents thought they were doing the right thing by withholding immunizations. Five years ago, we had an outbreak of whooping cough in Australia. One of my friends contracted it and he very nearly ended up in intensive care himself. As it was he spent some time in hospital and was very sick for a long time.

Debate will always rage in the western context regarding the appropriateness of immunizations. And honestly, I’m not sure of all the reasons people use to withhold them from their children. But this blog post is not to incite argument or rhetoric; it is simply to document my experiences here in Kenya.

Magdalene with the cool carrier
 getting ready for our first day.
In Kenya, it is a legal obligation of all parents to immunize their children. The parents don’t actually have a right to consent or withdraw from the system of immunization as the government will mass immunize in the field, ie at school or elsewhere irrespective of the parents views.

Preparing the first jab. See the one and only kidney dish?
No it was in use elsewhere. And we went through many
syringes due to their poor quality.

So given that here in Kangwangware and more than likely many other places, the levels of hygiene that the western world might be accustomed to are difficult to achieve let alone maintain, the risks of disease are much higher. There is no running water, sewerage systems or garbage disposal. Good health means that you aren't sick and that you have something to eat. Protecting children from disease is an essential. Parents understand what it is like to lose a child to disease or malnutrition. So they agree to immunize.

Noel of 'Baptism of Fire' fame was
the first to line up with the
Beautiful Trisha.
Open wide.... it's only Polio Vax!!

Achieving immunization capabilities for FreMo hasn’t been easy. In the three weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve seen the frustrations that Magdalene and Moffat have been up against in what should be a simple effort to set up the service. Moffat has more stories of the 3 year journey it has been for FreMo, but they are not mine to share here.

A beautiful bubba getting naked
ready to be weighed

Below are excerpts from my diary documenting their progress.

“Magdalene and Moffat were discussing the adventure Magdalene is having trying to obtain immunizations for the clinic. If it’s not a wrong fridge thermometer, it’s incomplete paperwork from officialdom or other such issues. I find it frustrating and I’m not really involved. Magdalene went all the way to Bagathi Hospital today by matatu to pick up the immunizations. Everything was in place and we’ve been telling women to come to have their children immunized. They are coming and we are turning them away. Today is the day. But no, the cold carrier (I think she means esky) wasn’t available. They are locked away in the store room, waiting to be used. The man with the store room key is nowhere to be found. There was nothing to be done but come home without them. Of course this latest turn of events caused us to discuss their inefficiencies again. 

Nothing like a bit of boobie to sooth
after an immunization!!
And again…..

“Magdalene returns in triumph. We have immunizations as well as cold boxes. And yes, they are small esky’s. She calls a meeting and tells us of her adventures. Apparently they didn’t want to give her much stock, but she talks them around as it is our first order. Moffat immediately goes into marketing mode and decides the best way to do it is to turn FreMo into a telemarketing center. Off they go and pull all the charts of birthed women since September 2012 and start cold calling. It takes all afternoon.”

And of course, more photos of beautiful babies.

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