Tag Archives: Kenya

From a Clinic in Kenya, OB-GYN Deb Matityahu, MD, Shares One Young Woman’s Journey

Dr. Deb Matityahu, OB-GYN and Chief of Service for Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, has returned to Eldoret, Kenya. She volunteers at the Gynocare Fistula Centre, a clinic dedicated to repairing gynecologic fistulae, which arise when a pregnant woman’s delivery stalls. Tissues are damaged when the baby dies and must be removed from the womb. Dr. Matityahu and her teenage daughter started a non-profit, “A Little 4 A Lot,” which works to rehabilitate the often poor and shunned women after their repair. ALittle4ALot.com has raised money to provide sewing machines and lessons for the women. Here is one of their stories:

Ann  is one of our patients.  She lived in a poor village, and had to drop out of school. She was sent to Nairobi to be a maid. While in Nairobi, she was dating a boy for just over one year and became pregnant.

At first, Ann didn’t know she was pregnant; she just thought she was sick.  When she found out, Ann returned home to her village and  went to the hospital.  When she delivered in the local hospital, she had a large tear through the rectum that was not repaired well.  This resulted in a recto-vaginal fistula (RVF). For those of you not familiar with RVF, it is a tear from the rectum to the vagina, resulting in stool leakage through the vagina.  Not pleasant, as you can imagine (understatement).

Because of the stool leakage, she was reluctant to eat or drink anything if she was out of the house.  She was embarrassed, ostracized, and depressed.  She lived with the fistula for three years before learning she could come to Gynocare (Fistula Centre in Eldoret)  for repair.  She was repaired in 2011.

Ann was tearful and crying through most of her story.  She recently finished her dressmaking class, and says that learning to sew has changed her life.  If it weren’t for us and for her sewing machine, she would be working in someone’s home again for 800 kes a month (the equivalent of $10 US).  Now, she knows she has a skill and has value.

Ann believes she will be able to return home to give her 5-year-old daughter a better life and an education.  On the sewing room wall behind her were about six tote bags that she has already sewn.   I plan to purchase them all and sell them in the states.

She continues to cry, insisting that we have changed her life and cannot thank us enough.  At this point, I am crying too and got up to hug her.  I don’t think I fully realized what we have started with this program, and what we have already accomplished in such a short time.

Dr. Deb.
Eldoret, Kenya

RWCDrMatityahu-L-Pt-ClinicDirector-R 2012

In this 2012 photo, Dr. Debra Matityahu poses for the camera with a fellow doctor and patient in a clinic in Kenya.

Alabaster Mobile Clinic and Shannon Fernando, RN, Prepare for Kenya Relief Trip

Shannon Fernando, RN, is a nurse at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center. She founded the Alabaster Mobile Clinic, which provides health services in impoverished areas of Africa and South Asia. She and other volunteers are preparing for a trip to Kenya this summer. Shannon offered us this dispatch, below, to introduce the mission.

Alabaster Mobile Clinic is a non-profit, charitable health care organization based in California, which provides health services and health education to unreached, impoverished rural and urban communities internationally, primarily in Africa and South Asia. Alabaster consists of volunteer doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other health care professionals whose mission is to serve those most in need.

Alabaster enters a community, whether it is a slum or tribal dwelling, to meet primary health care needs, treating both acute and chronic illnesses. To establish sustainable disease prevention and management outcomes, Alabaster also will  focus on providing health education based on host country’s identified needs, which may include, but are not limited to: hygiene, endemic disease processes, proper nutrition, basic wound care, and prenatal care.

Alabaster will be taking its first team to Kenya this August to deliver health services and health education throughout the jungles of the Maasailand. Administering vaccines and life-saving antibiotics, the team will treat over 700 men, women, and children. The team will be traveling via Land Rover or on foot to deliver care “where the people are,” going into tribal dwellings or villages.

If you would like more information about the trip or to find out more about Alabaster Mobile Clinic, please go to our website.

Shannon Fernando, RN
Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center

Hernando Garzon, MD, Returning to ‘Work From Home’

September 11, 2011

About to start a LONG journey back.  more work to do, but it will be from home. In the meantime, programs in Somalia are underway, and in Kenya are under development.

Many things give me hope when doing this work.  on this trip, some of those things are pictured here.  Many,  many thanks for all your support!


Hernando Garzon, MD
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center

Hernando Garzon, MD, Blogs From Mwingi: Three Days in Rural Kenya

September 8, 2011

I returned late last night from three days in rural eastern Kenya, doing a needs assessment in the Mwingi district about 80 miles east of Nairobi.  We visited about 8-10 health clinics and dispensaries, and a few district hospitals.  The population there frequently travel 5-10 miles daily just to find water. Dispensaries or Health Clinics are often up to 15 miles away from remote villages.  As usual, the need is so great, one of the hardest decisions is choosing where to start.  the Ministry of Health runs the existing health facilities, but they are amazingly understaffed and under-resourced.  Possibilities for our involvement in this district include developing an outreach program to access the distant villages, and to develop some clinical staff training around nutrition (capacity building).

Here are some of the photos of our two days there, and will hopefully give you a sense of the environment and the beautiful people here.

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Today, three  of us had the opportunity to visit the U.S. embassy and meet with Ambassador Jim Swan, who has been named the special envoy for Somalia.  Relief International has a private meeting with him as we are one of the few U.S.-based NGOs with fairly extensive operations there.

I only have a few more days here, but expect to continue helping to develop programs here.  We have 4-5 different grant proposals into various donors (UNICEF, OFDA, WFP, etc.), and within the next month expect to establish additional programs in Somalia and Kenya.

Thank you all for your support and kind words!


Hernando Garzon, MD
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center

Hernando Garzon, MD, in Nairobi: Shocking Conditions in an Urban Slum

Sept. 1, 2011


I worked in the Mathere slum in Nairobi for a month after post-election violence in 2008, and visited again in 2009 (when working in western Kenya). One would think that after such time here, I would be “used to it.” It is, however, still shocking to see the conditions under which our fellow humans live.

While so much of the media coverage of this Horn of Africa drought/famine shows malnutrition and famine in Somalia and the refugee camps in eastern Kenya and Ethiopia, it’s clear that there are other areas in both Ethiopia and Kenya which are also affected by drought and malnutrition.  What is also not well reported is that malnutrition rates in the slums in urban areas are also increasing — food is available, but people cannot afford the higher food prices. Rural malnutrition rates of 10-15 percent may sound worse than urban malnutrition rates of 2-3 percent, but consider this: That malnutrition rate of 15 percent in the rural areas may represent 3,000 children, but the urban rate of 3 percent may represent 12-15,000 children.  Because of this, we are also evaluating the needs of urban slum environments, and this is what prompted today’s visit, and the attached photos.

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Perhaps my most surreal experience of the day happened while walking through Mathere, when I saw a young man I had taken care of during the post-election violence here in 2008.  I recognized him first because of his amputated right arm, which he lost as a result of a traumatic machete attack 3 years ago. In contrast to the look of fear and terror which I remember so well in his face, and which was so common in all our patients here 3 years ago, he had a smile, looked at ease, and looked healthy. It was wonderful to speak with him, and amazingly heart-warming to see such a positive outcome.  Those few minutes reminded me how the efforts made to work in these environments is so worth while.

In other news, Relief International is proceeding with expanding the existing nutrition and health program in Galkayo, Somalia.  The plan is to develop a Maternal/Child Health program and a malnutrition program in Matabaan, a town about 70 miles south from Galkayo, in central Somalia.  While not visiting this site, I am helping to organize that program.

Thank you for reading.

Hernando Garzon, MD
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center

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