How A Cholera Outbreak Moved Turkana Boy To Become A Health Worker

“When I was in Form One I came home for holiday only to find that there was a Cholera outbreak in my village. Two people had already died and many more were sick. Everybody was running to the health center for help but there were no health workers to treat them. I was very sad but helpless as people continued streaming into the local primary school which had been turned into a treatment camp. This is when I decided that I wanted to be a health worker. To come and help the community.”

These were the passionate words of Emmanuel Etaboa graduate nurse currently volunteering at Kerio Health Centre in Turkana County. Popularly known as the cradle of man, as a result of groundbreaking archeological discoveries made by Dr. Richard Leakey, his mother Mary Leakey and others, Turkana County is one of Kenya’s driest regions. According to the Kenya Demographic Health survey report of 2014 Turkana has some of the highest Poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy levels while  HIV prevalence is also high. Inaddition, the county faces a major shortage of health workers,according to the Ministry of Health Human Resources for Health (HRH) Assessment Report for Northern Kenya (2013) as the county with the lowest health worker to population ratio.

Etaboa is among 341 students who have benefitted from a scholarship program run by IntraHealth International’s USAID/FUNZOKenya project. FUNZOKenya project whose goal is to transform health workforce training in Kenya with a view of improving quality and increasing health workforce numbers, also runs the Afya Elimu Fund (AEF), implemented jointly with the Higher Education Loans Board. Afya Elimu which was established in 2013 has advanced loans for tuition fees to more than 2000 students.

Etabo had always desired to do a medical related training to help his community given that very few health workers were attracted to work in this area of Turkanadue to the hardships.

”When I received an invitation letter to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) I faced a lot of challenges in raising the fees. Although I managed to convince my uncle to support me, he couldn’t fullysupport me because he had many issues to deal with including his own children who were now in school. I had reached a point of dropping out in my second year. This is when the chance for the scholarships came.” He explained.

Etabowho completed his three and a half years Diploma in Kenya Registered Community Health Nursingin January 2015 now a volunteer at Kerio Health Centre, says it is a fulfillment of his childhood dream.

“I am grateful to FUNZOKenya for helping me pay my school fees andrealize my dream of serving my people. Even though I am not earning a salary right now, I am very happy to be here.” He said.

KerioHealth Centre has only four qualified health workers serving a catchment population of over 6,200 people. According to Patrick Moi the Facility in charge,Etabo is a God send addition which brings the number of nurses to two. Mr. Moi and the county government are working on modalities of absorbing Etabo into the county payroll to retain him in the facility.