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Where wheelbarrow is night ambulance

Health & Science

By Maore Ithula

A clinic at Mukuru kwa Njenga slum sums up the inadequacy of healthcare in urban informal settlements.

Alice Githae, a nurse who runs Alice Health Services narrates an incident to illustrate the hardship of offering health care amid dire poverty.

She recalls: "One night, about a month ago, an expectant mother was brought in well past midnight on a wheelbarrow, a common night ambulance here.

But on that day, the entire slum was in darkness due to a power blackout.

"During such situations, we use dry cell torches or kerosene lamps for lighting as we treat patients. On that particular night, our torch cells were down, yet the patient required a few stitches after delivering her baby.

"One of my support staff had to hold up a kerosene lamp at a tilted position while the midwife handled the patient.

Her clinic is a nine-roomed healthcare facility made of timber and roofed with corrugated iron sheets. It has a ‘bed capacity’ of four. Alice pays a rent of Sh20, 000 for the structure. She charges Sh3, 500 for normal delivery but refers complicated cases to Kenyatta National Hospital.


Inpatients pay Sh300 per night excluding medication.

The retired Kenya Enrolled Nurse says: "Most of our patients come from this slum, many of them cannot afford to pay, so we treat them on credit."

With three nursing colleagues and eight support staff, the clinic treats an average of 50 patients a day and handles a minimum of 20 deliveries every month.

Many other such clinics and herbalist shops are the only hope slum residents have for medical service.


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