Health & Medicine

Getting back to healing in Kenya

Out on the highway some health workers drive by this restaurant and gas station that once served the area's specialty, sweet goat meet. This nurse notices some black smoke rising in the distance, and she concludes it's from a farmer clearing his land, so it's a good sign. She says just after the disputed presidential election, her family was threatened because her husband was a government worker. They fled nearly 200 miles to Nairobi. She was one of an estimated 1,000 nurses who fled because of the violence. This official says the threats came along sectarian divides. Across the region clinics shut down and health workers stopped visiting homes. Often the victims and their healers came from opposite sides of the ethnic divide. This doctor recalls one 90 year old Kikuyu man whose family asked for the doctor to treat him, even though he was of a different tribe. He was worried that if there was a medical accident, it would be taken as intentional and an extension of the fighting. The doctor treated that Kikuyu man and many others. Some patients complained of being turned away though. This nurse returned to her home but she kept finding reminders of the dispute. She says she felt overwhelmed but wasn't the only health worker feeling that way. So she and her colleagues launched a program to help the staff cope. Some are getting cash assistance to help rebuild, others get counseling, and all take part in group therapy sessions where they can vent their feelings. They all agreed that they all need to forgive and forge on. The health programs are now back to full strength and the nurse says she feels safe again.

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