UMOJA - U.A.S.O. Women's Group
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Affordable, comprehensive health services are largely inaccessible in the Samburu District. For example, in Archer's Post (the town adjacent to Umoja), there is one privately funded health clinic staffed by only four nurses. This one clinic services many outlying communities, who lack health services completely. Since this clinic can only offer limited services, patients with more serious cases must be referred and transferred to a larger hospital two hours away in Wamba that is too costly for many to afford. There are also cultural constraints to using available health services. Many opt to treat their symptoms with home remedies since they mistrust modern medicine.

There are several common diseases, infections, and other health problems endemic to the Samburu District. Many children experience undernourishment during drought years, which stunts their physical and cognitive growth. Diarrhea, which can result in severe dehydration and even death, is another common childhood illness. Malaria affects people of all ages. School feeding programs, clean water, oral rehydration sachets, and use of treated bednets are simple and inexpensive mechanisms that could greatly alleviate these health burdens. Yet, lack of sufficient funding and some resistance on the part of community members to adopting new practices constrain the efforts of committed individuals and organizations within the region, such as those of the Catholic missions.

HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are high; up to 23% of the population is HIV positive in some of the larger towns, yet there is resistance to testing and acknowledging the problem. For example, approximately twenty people used the voluntary testing and counseling (VCT) clinic in Archer's Post in 2005. There is also much stigma associated with HIV/AIDS; some believe that it is caused by a curse. Such high prevalence rates have serious social ramifications. There are many children orphaned by AIDS in Samburu villages and towns; only a lucky few receive the material and emotional support they need. HIV/AIDS also destabilizes families, strains health care resources, and constrains economic productivity. Women are the most infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, as they are more susceptible to contracting the virus and are the primary caregivers for sick family members. Efforts are being made to educate the population on how the virus is transmitted and how to protect oneself and others.

Women's health is compromised by their inability to exercise their full rights. Family planning is generally absent in Samburu culture. Not only do women lack access to contraceptives, but the culture encourages high birth rates. Unfortunately, there are often complications during childbirth, largely attributed to a woman's circumcision and the tendency to give birth at home. This adversely affects the health of both mother and child.

Umoja encourages safe health practices. Mothers are encouraged to use bednets for their small children, pregnant members are advised to seek antenatal care, to give birth at the health clinic and to return for postnatal care if necessary. Additionally, Umoja will cover medical expenses if members cannot afford them. Umoja also provides two meals a day for the children attending their preschool, with support from the World Food Programme. By promoting the health of their members, Umoja is promoting women's empowerment.

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