The impact that the annual Lewa Marathon has had on conservation and community welfare is huge and spread across different projects, with healthcare being the most crucial. The marathon whose first race was ran in the year 2000 has been sponsored by Safaricom all along as title sponsor. It is now co-lead-sponsored by Safaricom and Huawei.
Access to healthcare in Northern Kenya has always been a challenge given the harsh terrain, wildlife, and insecurity incidences here and there. This is what informed Lewa’s decision to open the Lewa Medical Center to the public, and to build and equip three more facilities strategically located within the communities that neighbor the conservancy.
Lewa Medical Center is a small but compact hospital inside the conservancy. It is one of the projects through which the Lewa Marathon has had great impact to the communities around the area. It is also part of a wider healthcare program covering not only the immediate neighborhood, but also further out with mobile clinics and outreach activities to homes, schools, and community barazas. Initially it was for conservancy staff and guests but the need for health services for other people was evident. Currently, 90% of patients are from the communities around.
For a non-profit, the center has impressive services and facilities and has recently been upgraded to a Level 3 hospital by Government. And with good reason since it is a fully fledged hospital covering a wide spectrum of healthcare issues to a reasonable extent. With services like general health, immunization, maternal and infant care through the Mother2Child clinic, laboratory, and pharmacy, the hospital’s immense contribution to the health of communities around Lewa cannot be downplayed.
The Mother2Child clinic which serves 50-60 mothers every Wednesday offers pre and post-natal services. There is also a makeshift maternity at the clinic to cater for emergency cases and keep mothers-to-be in a safe space for onforwarding to other hospitals.
The center is also one of only four facilities in Isiolo and Meru that is allowed to collect Covid19 samples.
The Lewa healthcare program also has preventive projects which are carried out through initiatives such as mass deworming, school outreach programs to raise health awareness among kids, and screening for common ailments. This screening is crucial for capturing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and breast and cervical cancers which are on the rise. Cases that cannot be handled in any of the four clinics are forwarded to other hospitals through a referral program. All these efforts have led to a sharp incline in the number of people seeking services because they are now more knowledgeable about the need for medical treatments.
Lewa Medical Center which is heavily funded through proceeds of the annual marathon also works closely with Government hospitals to support healthcare in Isiolo, Meru, Timau, and other surrounding areas. The in-house pharmacy at the clinic for instance is a hub for distribution of medicines to other clinics. This is in partnership with KEMSA for Government and USAID for donor support. Medicines that come in through these partnerships are given free of charge to patients, and those that are not free are dispensed at subsidized costs. There is further support for patients in form of a waiver program for those who cannot afford to buy the medicines even under subsidy.
The fruits of Lewa’s healthcare initiatives are clear. According to the 2019/2020 Lewa impact report, around 49,257 people accessed affordable healthcare in that one year. 12,938 people benefited from the mobile outreach campaigns, 2,920 children received immunization and treatment and 7,655 people got comprehensive laboratory services.
Much as a lot has been covered, there is still a deficit and more needs to be done. Like construction of additional health centers within communities, and upscaling of the existing ones. The Lewa Safari Marathon and partners like Safaricom who have been on board all along have their work cut out for them. You as an individual can be part of the marathon and by extension part of the Lewa community empowerment efforts. Register for the virtual marathon here and join thousands of others who will be running, jogging, or walking from where they are. There is also the option to donate.