Emily McKhann's  picture
Emily McKhann
Founding Mother
The Motherhood

Lessons from the experts

ONE Mom Emily McKhann reflects on her week in Kenya with nine other American mom bloggers

“No woman should die while giving forth to life,” said Dr. Omoto Jackton on our visit to the Siaya District Hospital in Kenya.

African Mother and ChildBefore every meeting on our very full agenda—with moms in their homes, with village reporters, potato farmers, dairy owners, physicians, clinic managers and more—experts briefed us on what to expect, explained the big picture implications and answered our questions. The briefings were led by some of the most dedicated, knowledgeable, inspiring people I’ve ever met and I’d like to share a few takeaways from the conversations.

“One in four women in Kenya tests positive for HIV/AIDS. If the women receive treatment while pregnant, only 1.8 percent of their babies will be born with the disease. If they don’t get treatment, 25 to 40 percent of the babies will be born HIV positive.” -Kayla Laserson, Ph.D., director, KEMRI/CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration

“When I went into labor, there were no ambulances, so I walked three miles to the hospital.  When my contractions came, I had to stop but when there was a break, I ran down the road to get there in time.  I just made it.” -a nurse at Siaya District Hospital

“Come back in five years when we have all these new vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis.  We are that close.” -Grace Kiringa, M.D., Siaya District Hospital

“With the drought in Kenya and Somalia, 40 percent of the children are wasting away without food and water.  That is well beyond the emergency threshold of 15 percent.” -Ruth Citiampati, USAID

“Women grow 80 percent of the food in Africa and are the backbone of the economy and the food supply.” -Lee Anthony Brudvig, deputy chief of mission, US Embassy, Nairobi

“I tell my friends that they can do this too. I don’t have to ask my husband for money because I have my own bank account. I have saved for retirement. I can afford clothes so I can go out looking elegant.” -Mary, dairy farmer in the Rift Valley

“Last year, Kenya approved a new constitution that will dramatically alter the status of women in Kenya.  Women are now guaranteed to hold a minimum of one-third of all elected and appointed posts in government.” -John Githongo, executive director, Transparency International

“Binti Pamajo (Daughters United) is our program for girls ages 11 to18 in Kibera [the largest slum in Africa]. We provide a safe place for girls to learn and talk about what matters to them—taking care of themselves, violence against women, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS—and to plan for their future.” -Rye Barcott, founder, Carolina for Kibera

“Women at Dunga beach are supporting their families and feel they have no other choice. They trade with the fishermen, giving them sex in exchange for fish that they can sell and use to feed their children. Fishing communities like this spread HIV/AIDs, and we’re helping these women find other options, improve their lives and stop the spread of disease.” -Lynn Adrian, Foreign Service Officer, USAID

“We bring together mothers who have overcome the odds to have well nourished children with mothers from the same environment, neighbors, who have poorly nourished children so they learn from each other.  All women want what’s best for their babies and they learn so fast together.” -Ruth Citiampati, USAID

“People think that TB is handled but there were nearly 200,000 new cases in Kenya and almost 1.5 million people died from TB around the world last year—and it’s a treatable disease.  Here in Kenya, volunteers who themselves had TB visit TB patients every day to make sure they’re getting the care they need.” -Kevin Cain, M.D., USAID

“The job of village reporters is very important. They visit people in their homes and record births and deaths and help people understand how they can better care for and protect themselves from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and pneumonia.” -Flo, medical officer, Rarieda

“I’m a life-changer!” -Grace, home health care counselor

The common narrative was how deeply everyone we met cared. Each day they take another step to try to improve things and they keep moving forward. Their dedication and expertise are turning things around—improving the health of families, testing vaccines, supporting agricultural collectives and so much more.

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-Emily McKhann, The Motherhood