Women of Substance: Nurse Rita and Mama Peters.
Rita Lekisaat and Mama Peters are doing great work at the clinic in Latakwen, a small settlement in the Ndoto Mountains in Northern Kenya. They are working hard at the clinic attending to the medical needs of the nomadic tribes in the area and doing a fabulous job. Rita is the local nurse and Mama Peters keeps the clinic clean and assists Rita with administering medications.
I first met Rita last year at the tail end of an eye medical mission that took place at the clinic and had been sponsored by MEAK in partnership with the Milgis Trust. She had been observing closely the trachoma and cataract operations and gaining precious knowledge. A neatly put together woman who exudes a calm authority, she is the sole medical practionner in an area with no doctors and plays a pivotal role in the life of the nomadic communities. The little clinic is the base of her operations. Many Samburu people travel miles to seek care at the clinic. In addition, Rita has to go out in the field to immunize the children, do preventive and follow up care, and address the various health matters of the Samburu people who live in very small settlements scattered through out the beautiful Ndoto Mountains. Keen to protect the life style of the nomadic tribes, I had just committed to pay both Rita and Mama Peters’ salaries. Their work is essential to the livelihood of these communities. Rita sees about 1,500 patients in a year and malaria and respiratory ailments are the most common complaints.
Rita did her training in Wamba, a small town south of Ndoto Mountains, and studied midwifery at Thika Maternity. She also took many other small courses like dentistry, TPR surgery because working in such a remote place she has to deal with a large variety of ailments. She lives in Lesirikan, north east of the Ndoto Mountains. Married with four children, she strongly believes in education: her two oldest are doing university studies, and the two others are in secondary and primary school. She is rather atypical in the area as most people are nomadic and therefore education falls to the side.
The clinic is in great shape because of the work of Mama Peters who keeps it in order. She found herself in a desperate situation last year when her sister died and she became the sole guardian of 5 children. This job was a blessing for her and her good work is highly appreciated. Those of you who know the state of clinics in the African bush can attest to the fact that a well functioning and well-attended clinic is no small feat!
The third member of the team is Daniel who is scouting the area for people with eye problems, in particular trachoma. He educates them about the disease, teaches them preventive measures and keeps records for the next eye medical mission.
The Milgis Trust in partnership with MEAK oversees the functioning of the clinic and now that there is a car that can be used as an ambulance in case of emergency to take the sick patients to Wamba, the operation is sustainable. However, the operation depends still heavily on outside funds – I am paying for the salaries. The question remains: what will happen when outside funds are not available? I would like it to be more truly sustainable, which means that it must involve the beneficiaries of the clinic, which are the nomadic communities. Only then can it have hopes to last.
While the government funded the building of the dispensary, in typical fashion, maintenance of the building and the hiring of sufficient medical personnel does not seem to follow. The government sadly shows little interest in these nomadic communities in the Northern part of Kenya. That makes the work of Rita and Mama Peters that much more appreciated!