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Low Tech Solutions Improve Health Outcomes In Marsabit, Kenya

In many of the communities we serve we often find that people are afraid to go to the hospital. People view the hospital as a last resort. It is a place where many go to die, not a place to be healed and recover. And it is true that without the tools they need to effectively treat patients, outcomes suffer greatly.

However, there exist numerous examples of how low-tech or no-tech solutions are both addressing critical health issues and changing attitudes towards the local health system throughout the developing world. Something as simple as replacing a worn out bed or providing shoes to protect kid’s feet has dramatically improved health conditions and the quality of life in Marsabit, Kenya.

The local Marsabit Hospital had long been a forgotten government facility in a remote and harsh area of northeastern Kenya. The hospital had struggled for years to serve the overwhelming needs of the 200,000 people in its district. Equipment was broken, rusty, and inoperable. Beds were few and the mattresses were soiled and torn. Some of the hospital’s surgical equipment would stop working in the middle of a procedure. They didn’t have a baby warmer for newborn babies and the maternity ward consisted of rusty beds.

“There were old broken and rusty beds at the hospital and almost half of the patients’ beds didn’t have mattresses… But it’s not just that the beds are rusted, although that’s kind of demoralizing for people. It’s more than that. It’s the fact that the mattresses are cracked, and so that means infection control issues.”

With overcrowding, patients were also sharing beds and some were simply being treated on the floor. The lack of birthing beds posed a significant risk for mothers who sought care during difficult births. Maria Elema, nurse-in-charge at Marsabit’s maternity wing shared:

“The risk of infection coupled by a low bed capacity posed a major health risk to both mothers and babies. This discouraged many women from seeking delivery services at the hospital, but today the narrative has changed.”

Another issue facing the Marsabit community is the prevalence of the jigger flea, a parasitic insect that enters the body via the hands and feet. Photos showed children in the region with missing toes and inflamed, infected fingers as a result of these infections. Children and adults in this region have little water and soap for bathing and most of the children have no shoes. The local hospital had very little capacity to address the problem.

MedShare was familiar with a local organization, Partners for Care who knew the struggles of the Marsabit region, and shared these specific challenges with MedShare. MedShare engaged Hill-Rom, a manufacturers and distribution of hospital beds, and the Mayor of Secaucus’ NJ, who donated a truckload of shoes.

Today MedShare is a household word in Marsabit due to simple but effective interventions provided to this marginalized community. Far more importantly, the perception of the Marsabit Hospital has dramatically changed. They last reported a 62% increase of deliveries at the hospital, a sign of growing community support.

Who would have guessed that these simple yet strategic changes could have such ripple effects throughout the region? After the arrival of the beds, Halima Shibiya, a Charge Nurse at Marsabit, told MedShare, “The stature of the hospital is being admired, even to the outsiders, even to the clients, even to the patients, who are using the beds and all the supplies.”

Henry Kahara with Partners for Care summed up the effect of the donation on the community saying, “Now the residents of Marsabit County have [both] renewed hope and quality medical services.”

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