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Mercy to the rescue

Lokorong Emuria outside her house in Lopedekit Village, Kakuma

1 October 2018, Kakuma, Turkana: “I remember going to bed at around 9pm after sharing a meal with a relative who had come to visit. At 3am I started experiencing excruciating stomach cramps. I was sweating heavily, and I felt like the entire house was spinning. I had never experienced anything like it before. That was before the uncontrollable diarrhoea and vomiting started. I thought I was going to die!”

These are words from Lokong Emuria, single mother of 6 children and a cholera survivor. She lives in a compact village called Lopedekit, about 20 minutes from Kakuma Town in Turkana County. The village is made up of a clever maze arrangement of 15 grass-thatched houses closely packed together with a thick bush perimeter fence.

On 30 September 2018, there was a cholera outbreak that affected areas around Lopedekit with 3 cases confirmed at the nearby health facility that is run by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). Lokong was one of the 3 people with cholera. Her story is different from other victims who were not lucky in getting quick medical attention as soon as they presented symptoms of the disease.

“At 6am, there was an ambulance from the KRCS hospital that came to collect me. After seeing me suffer without improvement, one of my children alerted the neighbours who then called Mercy, my village doctor who brought the ambulance to save me,” says Lokong. Mercy Natira, is the Community Health Volunteer (CHV) in charge of households in Lopedekit. After receiving the necessary training and supervision from the County Health Team, she offers her time for free to ensure the good health and well-being of members of her community, including the treatment and referral of clients suffering from acute watery diarrhoea.

Mercy says, “When I received the phone call at around 5:30am and saw the symptoms Lokong was presenting, I immediately knew that the situation was very serious, and I had to ensure she received urgent specialised attention.” The ambulance took away a very dehydrated Lokong to the Kenya Red Cross Hospital where she was admitted at the Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC). While at the CTC she was treated for dehydration using Oral Rehydration Salts and was put on the normal saline IV drip.

Mercy Natira with Lokong and five of her children outside her house.

David Chesire was the health officer on duty when Lokong was brought to the CTC. “The patient was immediately quarantined at the facility and treatment administered. We then undertook tests that later confirmed that she had indeed contracted cholera.” While she was receiving treatment at the hospital, health workers led by David and supported by Mercy went back to Lokong’s home to ensure that the rest of the family as well as their neighbours were also not presenting possible symptoms of the disease. Luckily, they were all found to be healthy.

“Once we established that the rest of the family was free from infection, we had to make sure that they remained healthy. We undertook a massive health promotion exercise that included the rest of the community where we reminded them the basics of good hygiene including the 5 critical times for handwashing and how to make drinking water safe using water treatment tablets, “says David.

These timely interventions would not have been possible without the generous support from the Government of Japan to fund the emergency health programme that ensured that the facility run by KRCS was fully equipped to handle patients like Lokong.

Lokong was discharged from the CTC 2 weeks later, having fully recovered and having a new lease of life. She says, “I am forever grateful to Mercy and the people who saved my life. I can only imagine what would have happened to my children when left alone if I had not survived this ordeal.”

Through funding from the Government of Japan, UNICEF is working in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society in six Arid and Semi-arid counties to ensure women and children are able to access life-saving emergency health interventions aimed at contributing to the progressive realization of Universal Health Coverage.



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