Building a healthy future for Kenya’s children

Miriam Sevy, holding a baby outside a clinic

Miriam Sevy saw how Kenya is changing, with PATH’s help. Photo: Gretchen Sorensen.

Among poor communities in Kenya, PATH is making a significant difference in countless people’s lives. Last fall, Miriam Sevy learned just how much PATH’s work means to Kenya, and to her.

Miriam, a Seattle resident, never thought an x-ray machine would make her cry. But in September when she and five other PATH supporters traveled to Kenya to see PATH’s work in the region, the experience awakened profound feelings.

It started with a tour of a clinic run by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Western Kenya. A partner in the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, Walter Reed is conducting clinical trials of the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine candidate and providing free medical care to participants and their families as part of the trial. For most, it’s the best care they can get.

Miriam and the other travelers visited the clinic to learn more about the vaccine trials. Yet as they toured the facility, they couldn’t help but notice other things. The building was clean, with lots of windows and fresh air. The lab had ventilation, running water, and refrigeration for samples. Health records were stored securely on computers.

An unfair gap

Average by American standards, the Walter Reed clinic stood in stark contrast to the cramped, inadequate regional health centers that the travelers had seen in the past days. The water supply for one Kenyan lab came from a paint bucket affixed with a spigot. Miriam saw no imaging facilities and very few computers: patient information was recorded by hand and kept in ledger books, and hand-written test results were posted on walls. Bathrooms lacked soap, towels, and running water.

The gap between the families who participated in the malaria trials and others in their country was huge, Miriam realized. And hugely unfair. “These are little children—fighting to survive typhoid, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS,” Miriam says, and they deserve a chance to grow up strong and healthy.

Bringing hope to families

Through the lens of PATH’s work—to prevent the spread of HIV, improve nutrition for new mothers and their babies, and tackle other urgent health needs—Miriam saw during her two-week trip how Kenya is changing.

“Kenyan kids deserve no less than this.”

She witnessed how women eagerly walk two hours in each direction for a support group to help them better care for their babies. She saw how men and women are changing their behaviors, thanks to PATH’s efforts, to protect themselves and their families from HIV. She learned how PATH is helping to increase the capacity of Kenya’s health services to give hundreds of thousands of children and adults high-quality care and a chance at a healthy life, bringing them closer to the kind of care that families at the Walter Reed clinic receive.

At the end of Miriam’s tour of Walter Reed’s facilities, the clinic director led the group to his latest achievement: a fully equipped x-ray room with modern equipment and trained staff. The sight of it, so different from anything else she had seen in Kenya, overwhelmed Miriam.

“When I saw that,” she says, “I suddenly realized: Kenyan kids deserve no less than this. The work that PATH is doing is the most important work.”