Injecting healthcare into Nairobi’s slums

Monday, July 7, 2014

What is the significance of seven seconds?

According to a 2012 World Health Organization report, every seven seconds, a child under the age of five dies. Many die from diseases that would be easily preventable through immunization.

Immunization programmes are recognized as the most effective and cost-efficient strategy in preventative medicine. Public immunization programmes should be the top priority for health, especially in low-resource settings, such as Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Sixty per cent of Nairobi’s population live in slums – informal settlements with overcrowded conditions, poor sanitation and limited access to services. The lack of clean water and sanitation, combined with the high population density, provides the perfect breeding ground for disease. Comparative studies show populations residing in urban slums have poorer health than their rural counterparts; the reverse is usually true for urban and rural populations. With urban growth projected to continue, so too will the ‘urbanization of poverty’. Due to the complex and often illegal nature of the slums, there are very few public health and social services and facilities. In rare instances, there may be limited access to private pharmacies or services, but they are often run by unregistered professionals or even non-professionals.

Apart from obvious health repercussions, there are other negative consequences, both short and long-term. Sick children are unable to attend school; they are also more likely to become infected with other illnesses, further reducing their capacity to function and recover. In fact, some of these children never fully recover and bear life-long impacts of childhood diseases. Children who grow into sickly adults are unable to work, thus affecting families and their ability to escape the poverty cycle.

Source: New Internationalist (link opens in a new window)

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