SAMBURU, December 1, 2014 - For generations, the pastorialists of Samburu, a nomadic county 400 kilometers north of Nairobi, have roamed from place to place in search of water and pasture for their animals.
“In such nomadic communities, it is sometimes common for children born with disabilities and HIV/AIDS to be abandoned by their families because they cannot help them herd animals in distant fields,” says Grace Seneiya, who opened a school for disabled children living with HIV/AIDS in Samburu. "I met a blind boy who had been abandoned by his parents when I was teaching at a small school in Barangui. I had to take him in."
The Samburu Handicapped Education and Rehabilitation Program (SHERP) received a $4000 grant to train health workers to ensure that the 150 disabled children living with HIV/AIDS at SHERP had access to nutrition, medicine, and home care that they required.
"One of the causes of disability is that many women here do not go to hospitals to deliver babies with the help of a skilled health professional," says Grace. Maternal mortality in Kenya is among Africa's highest at 488 deaths per 100,000 live births. The proportion of women who deliver with skilled attendance is only 44 percent and has remained largely unchanged since 1993.
SHERP is one of the more than 10,000 community-based organizations in Kenya who received a grant to help respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic nationwide. Supported by $135 million dollars in funding from the World Bank, this component of the Total War Against HIV and AIDS (TOWA) Project empowers community-based organizations such as SHERP to expand the coverage of HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation activities in their local communities. Through this project, communities are empowered to create, implement, and manage smaller projects that contribute to the national response to HIV/AIDS.
Kenya has the fourth largest HIV epidemic in the world. In 2012, an estimated 1.6 million people were living with HIV and roughly 57,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. There are now 1.1 million orphans to the epidemic. The epidemic varies in different parts of the country with the Nyanza province with the highest overall prevalence of 15 percent, followed by Nairobi with 10 percent.
Through TOWA, Kenya’s Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Control Counsel, distributed over 3 million insecticide treated bed nets and 300 million condoms nationwide. It also funded grants to more than 10,000 community based organizations to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. As a result, between 2007 and 2012, HIV prevalence was reduced from 7.2% to 5.6% and new infections declined by 40%.
Community-based organizations have helped contribute to the national response to HIV/AIDS, by empowering communities to respond to local changes.