Kenya drought story
By Debbie DeVoe, CRS’ regional information officer for eastern and southern Africa
Free antiretroviral medications help Blantina Mutuvi and her HIV-positive son stay healthy.
Drought means that residents of Mutomo in eastern Kenya are living through some tough times. Poor rains have left most families without a harvest since 2002.
The daily battle against hunger is even more difficult for people living with HIV who are taking antiretroviral medications—like Blantina Mutuvi.
“The drugs to me are the most important thing. When I use them, I feel really well,” Blantina says. “However, they can’t be used without food. If I take them without food, I might vomit.”
Antiretroviral Effectiveness Threatened by Drought
Blantina receives her antiretroviral medications from Mutomo Mission Hospital Comprehensive Care Centre which is supported by Catholic Relief Services (CRS – an American member of the Caritas confederation).
Taking the powerful HIV medications on an empty stomach, however, can increase side effects and reduce the drugs’ effectiveness. Clients are taught the importance of good nutrition to help their bodies absorb the antiretroviral drugs and keep their immune systems strong. Yet the extended drought is making it difficult for Kenyans to grow or buy enough food for their daily needs.
“Now there is nothing you can plant,” Blantina says. “I grew some maize this year, but I didn’t get anything from it.”
To make ends meet as the drought continues, Blantina is selling firewood and water she fetches from shallow wells nearby, then resells for a small profit. She is also receiving food from an aid agency distributing emergency rations through Mutomo Hospital. It is enough, for now, to keep her and her family going.
Supporting Four Children, Two With HIV
Life isn’t easy for Blantina, a widow with four children. But the care offered by Mutomo Mission Hospital relieves some of her burden. “If I am unwell or have a cold, I can come here and they will treat me,” Blantina says. “And I don’t have to pay.”
Now Blantina and her children are healthy and strong, but they and thousands of others across Kenya still face the daily consequences of the drought and a lack of food. Sitting in the shade of an overhang at Mutomo Hospital, Blantina chooses to look at her blessings instead of the ongoing challenges.
She says she is grateful for the help and support she and her children receive from the Comprehensive Care Centre. And while food is still a worry, at least she knows that the medical care and powerful HIV medications her family needs to stay healthy are freely available.
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