Sunset in Nguu land, Kieni East in Laikipia County spells the beginning of agony and fear to the residents, at twilight prayers begin as they curse the occurrence of dusk with the fear of what might happen between dusk to dawn.
Their health only lay at the hands of herbalist and traditional midwife to get them through in case of an ailment or incase labour pains from an expectant mother occurs through the night.
Prayers become the only solution to ailment when the herbalist aid fails as the nearest hospital is 22 km away, at Rumuruti town and the Nyahururu Referral hospital which is 42km away.
A fresh grave at Simon Epur’s house is a reminder to the residents every morning they wake up of how cruel the situation is and how the health services would be of importance to them if they had them.
Epur full of grief tries to narrate how death robbed his two kids amid efforts to get services. He says his effort to have his first son access health care went to no avail as the son succumbed to the ailment on their way to Rumuruti Sub county hospital.
“I rushed my son to hospital after coming from job and finding that my first child was sick but he died on the way and I brought the child back for burial,” he said.
Barely before the end of anguish, the emotional father of two would only come from his casual labour and find his wife in labour pains, ahead of efforts to have the kid safely delivered in a hospital the child was pronounced dead upon delivery on their way to the hospital.
“Death has been so cruel to my family, I have lost two children as a result of no health facilities, if only a health facility was available, maybe the pain in my heart would not be existing.
It hurts me to see this fresh grave behind my house, but it acts as an evidence on the suffering many of us are going through when it comes to health care,” said Epur, full of emotions.
The residents wish there would have at least a dispensary in their area as they could have saved the lives of many including Epur’s children
The horrifying situation of losing children due to lack of maternal care has made the residents to opt for traditional way to curb the maternal death rate in the area.
In a small mud made house, we meet the renowned midwife in the area, Paulina Navugei. She aids in the delivery process when labour pains hit expectant mothers.
Navugei has turned her living room into a maternity. Her tools of trade; a cow’s hide, sacks and pieces of old clothes, to back up her 50 years of experience.
“I help the women in labour deliver during the night with my bare hands. I examine the state of the child, and incase the situation would lead to complications, only prayers work till sunrise before they find a health centre which is miles away,” she says noting that the process remains unhygienic and dangerous to her health too.
The old midwife, who speaks in a Pokot accent, says the cosmopolitan society have found happiness again without her, the society is long forgotten.
She also added that she does not expect any payment from the patients as her work is to help women. She pleads with the government to help them as they are in great trouble.
Jenniffer Langala, a mother of three is a testament that the old granny really aids the women deliver, she says her three children have been delivered through the help of the old woman.
While she sits next to her manyatta, she says that post-natal care is hardly done and testifies no vaccination has been given to her children.
“Poverty limits some of these services, our casual labour is hardly enough to get food and have money to cater for transport, the motorcycles available to ferry us in search of these services, have taken advantage of the already worse situation, their charges on transport are far beyond our reach,” Langala speaks as she blow away flies from her dry lips.
According to the residents, sickness has to wait till the next market day at Rumuruti, so they can be taken to hospital alongside livestock going for auction.
However on this market day, it is not assurance that one will get the services as residents are not allowed to pass through a white settlers land in the area past 8pm in the evening where a road connecting the village with Nanyuki-Rumuruti road passes through. They have to wake up early in the morning to be able to pass through Kifuku farm and get back before nightfall.
The residents say that the end of community health work spelt doom, since they facilitated their access to hospitals by providing transport to the sick.
“My duty as a community health worker was to take data of the sick people and pregnant women which they used to organize means of transport to hospital and track the expected period of delivery to pregnant women and set a ready mean of transport in case of labour pains,” explained Ishmael Lemusi.
Other than lack of health facilities, the residents have no access to mortuary services with the landless throwing away their deceased to the wild.
The community efforts to see a hospital in the area made them set aside a nine and a half acre of land to build a health facility.
“The project to build the hospital started on July 2017 and the contractor promised to complete the work by November 1, 2019,” said James Ekuru, the hospital project committee member.
The residents who were so eager to see the project complete and start offering health services but their dreams were shattered when they received a letter from a court ordering the project which was 75% complete to stop, claiming that it was a private land.
“The building was already roofed and only 25% is remaining according to the contractor. The courts order shocked us since we had earlier confirmed from the land office that the plot, number 920 was owned by the society,” said Ekuru.
The residents say that they are not aware of the complainant and they wish that the complainant would come out and claim the piece of land.
They are now urging the government to help them claim their land and help in the completion of the hospital noting that cases of land grabbing in the area are enormous.
By Hannah Mburu/Rita Gachoki