An Itchy Arrival

I’ve finally reached Kisumu, Kenya after my 14 hr. flight. I and the other interns agreed that it was the longest flight we’ve ever been on. Especially since this is my first time out of the U.S. During our journey as we stepped on to the plane, I was happy to get the window seat every time, especially since I like to look out the window at the beautiful view of the different areas and even countries we were flying over. However, after a few minutes on our flight we were told to put our shades down and they turned off the lights. So much for my beautiful view! Anyway I understood that in South Africa, where we were heading, it was night time, so they wanted us to adjust to that time zone, however it was quite difficult. But, I managed to watch a few movies and even fall asleep. They also provided plenty of food, which was great and even snacks like Oreos.

Upon arriving in Kisumu, Kenya I was not only welcomed by Agnes and Peter, but later that night by mosquitoes as well. Dan, Ally and I all stayed at Monica’s house for the weekend and even with the mosquito repellent on, I ended up with a few bites on my legs. These bites were very different from usual mosquito bites. They were quite large and some even turned red and of course very itchy. I tried very hard not to scratch, but there were so many and couldn’t resist. I should have because the bites started to kamari4become very sore, then I realize I needed to stop scratching. During the weekend we arrived I tried my best to put on as much mosquito propellant to prevent it. Ally even let me use her 2nd bottle of Permethrin to spray on my clothes.  But as I was told by many KMET staff when sharing my experience they told me that “You must have sweet blood” or “Because you are new blood.” They even suggested that I use a cream that I can get from the supermarket, and I was hoping to get it soon. We laughed at my situation, but it still was problematic, especially since Dan and Ally still had not received the mosquitoes’ welcome.

Things changed when I got to my host family home on Monday after mentioning the consistent bites. My host mom Emma gave me an extra mosquito cream she had. I immediately put it on my skin. It was quite helpful in the beginning, at least that’s what I thought. I also discovered another issue which was my mosquito net that had a few holes in it and it did not fit completely over my bed, so I was sure that mosquitoes were sneaking in to attack. Luckily, my host dad brought me a new mosquito net that covered my bed more than I expected. Slowly the bites calmed down, but I still get a few everyday with the mosquito cream, repellent, Permethrin on my clothes, and more. Hopefully, I figure something out as time goes on.

kamari2Aside from the mosquitoes, my time here has been very eye-opening to the many challenges people may face in Kisumu. There is a high number of young girls ranging from the age of 14-17 having children in Kenya. Many of them are poor or do not have the accurate funds to provide the necessary care for themselves or their children, whether this may be prenatal needs as well as post-natal. These groups of girls were the target for Thursday when going with the traveling clinic to Manyatta slum. We walked around this area to share information on family planning with the young girls as well as offering free services like cancer screening. Many of the girls we spoke to were interested in family planning methods once explained, such as contraceptives, injections, etc. However at the same time there was resistance because they did not know what contraceptives were and did not want to know. In other instances, some girls showed less interest when there significant other (the male) was present and did not want to hear more information. Some of the staff also told me that men are highly resistant because they want to have kids. However with some resistance, about 18 girls did come to the clinic for family planning and/or cancer screening.

I was also able to go to a community with the Mobile Clinic. It was great to see how we were able to work with the community to set up the clinic, in a vacant area. The community provided tables, chairs, and benches for our use. We set up the clinic and waited for people in the community to come. Upon arrival they told me that sometimes it is slow because some people do not come, and they try to solve that problem by connecting with community health workers to inform their community of the mobile clinic’s services. They provide, HIVkamari3, Malaria, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever testing, and also provide medication for many other things. They also weigh babies and provide them with Nutriflour. I was able to see how they use what they have and are still able to help the community. The lab technician also explained and showed me how to test for malaria and typhoid. I was able to look at the microscope and detect what malaria looks like, which were small little semi circles with a dot above them.

The past week, was such a great experience to see Kisumu culture, from eating chapati, and ugali, and many other things and
working with the clinics, meeting many of the girls in Sisterhood for Change, and so much more. And I am excited for what is to come in the next few weeks and being able to share it with you all.

Kamari Harrington ’15
Kisumu, Kenya