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Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

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News Archive

Accompanying Community Health Workers in the Nairobi Slums

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Nov 1, 2010

A morning spent with the Community Health Workers from Malteser International in the slums of Nairobi, whilst they were on their rounds of housebound and bedridden TB and HIV patients

Alice Murphy had the privilege of spending a morning with two of the Community Health Workers from Malteser International whilst they went about their work in the slums of Nairobi:

'Princess' Diana and Purity have both been volunteer Community Health Workers since the Nairobi Slums TB Project began in 2002. They live within the slum community and are clearly very well known to everyone.

On the morning of my visit they had 5 patients to visit. We began at the home of William. He was recently diagnosed with both TB and HIV and is a very sick man. He has just been discharged from hospital, but is still very weak and unable to care for himself. He lives with his wife and baby son. His wife also has HIV. Their baby son has not been tested (this was a decision that William and his wife have made). As William is too sick to attend the Malteser International Health Clinic in person Princess and Purity are caring for him at home. As his health improves he will be encouraged to attend the clinic on a weekly basis to collect his medicines.

We continued from William to another four homes. These were all mothers with very young children. Some of them were sufferering from HIV, some from TB and some were suffering from both diseases.

The most wonderful welcome was from the home of Joyce. Joyce has had TB four times, but the treatment was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. When Purity first started caring for her Joyce was bedridden and unable to look after her 5 children. The greeting that we received was overwhelmingly joyous. Purity and Princess were greeted like family and there was lots of laughter and hand clapping. Joyce has now fully recovered from TB, but the Community Health Workers will keep a close eye on her and the family to ensure that the TB does not return.

It was wonderful to see the success of the Nairobi Slums TB Project so evidently. In many of the homes that we visited the patients were out. Purity and Princess explained that this was due to the patients being at work. This is very different to when they began the project six years ago and many of the patients were too sick to even get out of bed. They told me that it fills their hearts with happiness to see the patients recovering and going out to work to earn a living.

At the end of the rounds we visited both Princess and Puritys' homes. These were exactly the same as the homes of the patients. It really brought back to me how amazing these Community Health Workers are. They are no better off financially than the people they care for. They live in the same slum communities and face the same struggle each day in their search for food and money. Without their selfless contribution to the Nairiobi Slums TB Project there is no doubt that Malteser International would not be achieveing such success with reducing TB in the slums of Nairobi.

Bild reference: Joyce with her two youngest sons