MAF enables CURE to visit remotest Kenya (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

MAF enables surgery in remote Kenya amid disability inequality drive

15th March 2023

MAF enables CURE International to work in remotest Kenya (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

MAF enables CURE Int. to work in remote Kenya (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

Kenya’s ‘National Council for Persons with Disabilities’ has launched its first ever ‘Disability Mainstreaming Status Report’ which highlights where services and opportunities fall short for disabled people. MAF and CURE International are closing the inequality gap by making life-transforming surgery accessible to isolated disabled children

According to the ‘Disability Mainstreaming Status Report’, which was published on 14 March, Kenya’s 2003 ‘Persons with Disabilities Act’ stipulates that all workplaces must allocate 5% of jobs to people with a disability however, less than 1% of employers nationally are meeting that quota.

This is indicative of Kenyan culture – particularly in the rural areas – where disability is perceived as a burden or a curse. This perception marginalises and stigmatises disabled children from birth and robs them of equal opportunities in society as they get older.

Many children are neglected or hidden by their families, denying them an education. Others are ostracised by their community and denied employment later in life, which forces them into poverty.

Those fortunate enough to find work are often employed in low-income jobs, discriminated against or shamed through no fault of their own.

Bura in south-eastern Kenya can take up to 2 days to reach by road or up to 2 hours by air (credit Jenny Davies)

Bura in south-east Kenya can take up to 2 days to reach by road or up to 2 hours by air (credit Jenny Davies)

1.2M Kenyan children live with ‘treatable disabilities’

MAF partner, CURE International, estimates that 1.2 million children in Kenya are living with ‘treatable disabilities’, which can be rectified by life-transforming surgery.

Without medical treatment and/or corrective surgery, many of these children are afflicted by avoidable pain and mobility issues, which affect their quality of life both physically and psychologically. They are also unfairly denied opportunities throughout their lives.

Disabled children living in isolated areas not only bear the brunt of social stigma, their sheer remoteness often means that they are too far away from basic healthcare services.

With no available public transport – particularly in the north-east – families don’t often have the means to travel to regional health centres to access treatment.

For the few families who can afford it, often they find that these facilities do not offer corrective surgery when they get there, which is both frustrating and heartbreaking.

These families have made huge sacrifices to travel – it’s not uncommon for a family to go without food for the day just to be able to afford travel expenses.

The A.I.C-CURE Int Hospital team from Kijabe - Dr Sibona, 2nd from left (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

The AIC CURE Int Hospital team from Kijabe – Dr Sibona, 2nd from left (credit: Acadius Akungwi/CURE)

Thanks to the MAF – CURE partnership, MAF is bringing healthcare closer to these families. MAF facilitates three-day mobile medical clinics in remotest Kenya so isolated disabled children can get the treatment and hospital referrals they so desperately need.

CURE treat a range of conditions such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, burn contractures, windswept deformity, knock knees, bowed legs, cleft lip / palate, clubfoot and broken bones.

These mobile medical clinics are facilitated by MAF four times a year to Bura (south-east) Kargi (north-east) and Lodwar (north-west). Without MAF, each mobile clinic would take over a week to facilitate by road instead of three days by air.

This is poor use of time for the incredibly busy AIC-CURE International Hospital orthopaedic team who are based in Kijabe, one hour north of the capital, Nairobi.

Instead of travelling up to two days for each location on dirt tracks, MAF flies the team to each remote area in under two hours, so doctors feel fresh on arrival and can immediately start assessing patients, making the most of their day.

‘In this remote area, you can’t even get access to simple facilities, but now Peter can have a new beginning. Now he is able to walk with five toes instead of six without pain or further issues. His life has been changed.

‘For us, such a procedure is very simple, but in this context, even the easiest thing might be the most difficult thing, so that is why we are here.

‘Because of the distance and remoteness where there is not tarmarc, there is no way that we could come here without MAF who flew us here. Thanks to MAF and CURE, we have the possibility of reaching such children.’

Dr Federico Sibona – CURE International Orthopaedic Surgeon

Peter’s story

Without MAF, vital, accessible, affordable medical treatment is simply out of reach for many disabled children living in rural areas.

The CURE team assessed over 100 patients on the 3-day mobile medical clinic (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

The CURE team assessed over 100 patients on the 3-day mobile medical clinic (credit: Acadius Akungwi /CURE)

During MAF’s last mobile medical clinic over 100 people were treated in three days. One of those patients – 14-year-old Peter – had one toe too many on his left foot.

During a football match, the extra toe got damaged, causing him great pain. For four months, the dangling, lifeless toe hurt when he walked and got in the way of everyday activities.

It needed to be removed, but the nearest regional medical facility was unable to undertake such a procedure.

When Peter’s family heard about the mobile clinic taking place in Kargi, Peter and his family walked for four hours from their village to get there – it was Peter’s only hope of getting treatment. Such was his determination to be treated, Peter pressed on despite the pain in his foot.

With anaesthetic and stitches, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Federico Sibona was able to remove the painful toe on location:

With such a simple procedure enabled by MAF, Peter will now be able to live pain free and do everyday activities without stigma.

Together, MAF and CURE are closing the disability equality gap in remotest Kenya, one operation at a time.

In 2023, MAF hopes to increase the number of CURE mobile clinics from four times a year to six, in a bid to reach even more children.

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