Hernando Garzon, MD, Arrives in East Africa; Helping the ‘Bottom Billion’

August 27, 2011

For those of you who may not be aware, I am working with Relief International doing a needs assessment and program development for a humanitarian response to the drought/famine in East Africa.

I arrived safely to Nairobi a few days ago, and expect to be here for just under three weeks.  I expect my work to be focused on Somalia and Kenya, although Ethiopia remains a possibility. Relief International has had an existing nutrition and health program in the city of Galkayo, Somalia,  since 2007.

Galkayo is in central Somalia and at the edge of the areas currently declared in famine.  Recent reports estimate a seasonal crop in Somalia this year of only 17 percent of the past 10-year average.  For this and many other reasons, the famine is expected to spread before it gets better.  My work in Somalia will be based on looking to augment the existing programs there in nutrition and health, and we are already underway in establishing additional funding from UNICEF to do so.  My work in Kenya will be around evaluating areas that are affected by drought and considered high food insecurity areas, and are currently felt to be under served by international NGOs.  We hope to establish health and nutrition programs in Kenya as well.

After a few more days to get my bearings, connect with contacts and attend meetings in Nairobi, I expect to spend time in the field, both in Somalia and in rural areas of Kenya.

The attached photo is from a recent assessment in the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya.  With more than 12 million people at risk of starvation, this crisis is magnitudes larger than other disasters which have seemed large to us, including the Haiti earthquake, the Japan earthquake/Tsunami, the Southeast Asia Tsunami, etc.

The people affected by this crisis are already amongst the “bottom billion” – those poorest of us, all of whom are living on less than $1 a day.  Thank you all for supporting my work here as it is a contribution to the large scale effort which is needed to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Hernando Garzon, MD

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One response to “Hernando Garzon, MD, Arrives in East Africa; Helping the ‘Bottom Billion’

  1. Dr, Garzon —

    I just returned from Kenya. I was there as a tourist, but I had a chance to live in a Maasai village — a real one, not plastic — called Maji Moto, west of Narok, both before and after visiting Maasai Mara. The Maasai guide took my partner and me to meet his brother, Jackson, a Kenya-trained nurse practitioner who is the only source of medical care in the terribly poor villages around the Talek gate to the park. The visit was humbling and stunning: a highly motivated, articulate, and passionate provider struggling with an inadequate facility and limited medications to treat everything from abscessed teeth to malaria. As a retired Kaiser Permanente communications consultant, I was struck with how much was done with so little, and how much assistance in the form of medicines, medical equipment, and the like could help in this work.

    So that’s my question to you, as a seasoned Kenya hand: what programs are available, inside and outside Kaiser Permanente, to help men like Jackson?

    Many thanks, for your work and your information.

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