Pokot's Women, desperate call for help..
by Nav Matharu, Osteopath & Operations Director
It was during our work with a former NGO, back in February 2006, that Joe Matheny and I came across the Pokot people. Pokot is about fourteen hours by road, north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. It is an arid landscape, with petrified trees, cacti, camels and dried up river beds. Embedded in the dry and dusty landscape are living a community of people, who live a simple life, living off the land and still somewhat shielded from the rest of the world.During our time in Pokot, we lived like the people, in simple dwellings, no electricity, no running water and no modern bathroom facility. Spending time with this community, shielded from media and the modern world really allowed Joe and I to appreciate nature and appreciate the little things we all take for granted. The Pokot etched a permanent place in our hearts, for their strength and their kindness were sincere and humble. During my visit to Pokot in 2006, I was puzzled at the large number of women in the community who were suffering of Pelvic and Urinary Infections. The answer came to me, when I learnt that FGM (Female circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation) is still practised as a rite of passage ceremony in Pokot. This led me to carry out research on FGM and the health problems women suffer as a result thereof.
I recently heard from a Pokot elder, that a project I had designed to help women and children in his community while working with a former NGO, had still not been actioned. The community was now asking for our assistance as I had liaised initially with the community to design a project to help women and young girls. Divinity Foundation is now sourcing to implement the education and maternity care project for the Pokot. Any help, is welcomed and appreciated. So, let me tell you about the desperate help this community needs. In the Pokot, girls are educated up until the age of 10yrs, as education up to this age is free. After this age, families would rather spend what little they have to educate the boys in the community. This then means that from the age of 10yrs a young girl will take on house care duties like fetching water and fire wood. Most girls are circumcised at 11yrs of age and married by the time they are 12yrs. This means that there are girls as young as 15yrs falling pregnant.
So, our first aim is to set up an education programme for girls in the community, offering them skills to bring financial resources to their community, which will also allow these girls to enjoy their childhood instead of being married at such a young age.
The other issue here is that due to the extreme form of FGM practiced here which results in scar tissue, many women spend days in the bush trying to deliver a baby. This usually either results from still births or a fistula, which is a tear between the wall of the vaginal canal and anus, to accommodate the baby’s passage along the birth canal. Fistula’s can only be repaired surgically and without this surgery, women have no control over bladder and bowel movement, as a result these women are shunned from society and label as unclean. Women with extensive scar tissue due to FGM, require c-section surgery for the delivery of a baby. This costs £5, and each night in hospital costs just 50p. Many women make it to hospital and after delivery abscond during the night as they are unable to financially pay for the surgery. The local hospital was now asking for money before admitting a mother, which means that a young woman could be at the hospital steps requiring emergency c-section but was being turned away due to lack of finances. Our aim here is to set up a maternity care unit, where Divinity Foundation will pay for a woman to receive the c-section surgery she requires followed by two days hospital care. The woman and her baby would then be transferred to the maternity care house we aim to set up, where she will be nursed for a further seven days. The project is simple and is one that the community can run, once shown how.
Meanwhile, Joe Matheny has been carrying out research on Medicinal herbs which can be used to combat infection and provide nutrition. He is concentrating on how we can develop a Medicinal Garden/Natures Cure to help this community be self sufficient and combat simple infections.
This community also desperately needs to have a “Rain Water Harvesting” unit installed, as they live in dessert country and have to dig deep bore holes for water. Many a time, men can be digging deep for water and the bore hole collapsed on them, burying them alive. If there is ANYONE out there who can help, PLEASE contact us. Our aim here is to set up a self sufficient project, which the community can maintain and run, once put into place.
We are resourcing to implement a small project to help the Pokot. Phase one of the project will involve building a structure to house the "Maternity Care Unit" and "School for Girls" with the plantation of "Natures Cure" The building work will cost £5000. We envisage that the building, plus set up (beds, medical care equipement, essential santiary and kitchen items) will cost us £6000. Therefor the TARGET to make this project happen is £6000.
If anyone can collect used books that can be used to educate the teenage girls, or indeed are able to donate light baby clothes or maternity dresses for the women and you can mail these to Kenya, then PLEASE contact us. We are unable to carry out large collections of items in the UK or USA, as shipping to Kenya is quite costly.