Why West Pokot residents are forced to cross to Uganda for health services

The scarcity of health facilities in remote areas of West Pokot County has become a burden to many residents, leading to many deaths in the area.

Many residents in North Pokot and Central Pokot sub-Counties walk for more than 50 kilometers to access health centers.

Few health facilities in the area lack laboratories and maternity wards for pregnant women.

This has forced many residents living at the border to seek medication attention in neighbouring Country, Uganda.

Many patients go to Amudat, Kanuoni  Losam Kales, Karita in Uganda or Kapenguria County referral hospital for testing.

Residents from Kanyarkwat, Katikomor, Kanyerus, Alale, Kases, Ombolion, Riwo, and Suam areas have expressed resentment over the lack of health facilities.

For instance, the only  Kanyarkwat dispensary in the area serves more than 8,996 all from Trans Nzoia, West Pokot and Uganda.

The Government through the equalization fund set up two dispensaries at Kanyarkwat and Enough areas, which are yet to be opened.

Monicah Pyego a resident of the Kuresyo area said that many Pokot women are forced to seek maternity services in Kapenguria County referral hospital, which is more than 50 kilometers away.

“There is no vehicle in Kanyarkwat and patients and even expectant mothers are carried on motorbikes to Kapenguria County hospital. Most patients from this region are forced to travel for many kilometers to Moroto in Uganda to seek medication and give birth,” Pyego told NTV.

However, she said, the majority prefer giving birth at home with the help of traditional birth attendants.

Pyego said the nearest Kenyan facility to her village is more than 60 kilometers away.

“We are forced to give birth at home since we cannot walk long distances to the hospital,” she added.

West Pokot County has a total of 140 health facilities serving a population of more than 800,000 residents.

“We have lost many people who are referred to the county hospital in Kapenguria, many kilometers away, because of the long distance and poor state of the road,” Pyego said.

Pyego called on donors and other well-wishers to help in setting up more health centers in the area.

Isaac Mnangat Kalyamoi, a clinical officer at a health facility in the area cited challenges such as a shortage of staff and lack of houses for health workers.

“We lack houses. We have one clinical officer, two nurses, 2 nutritionists, one laboratory technician, one pharmacist, one health record and three volunteers.

He said that the new dispensary should be opened to reduce the workload.

“We have small rooms where three services take place. We do injections, attend to pregnant mothers and weigh children in one room. We need more health workers,” he said

“We get more than 30 pregnant mothers in a month. We offer maternity, laboratory, outpatient, family planning, immunization  and nutrition.”

Kanyarkwat Assistant County Commissioner Patrick Kisili Kitili said that residents in the areas face a lot of challenges in accessing health care.

“We need the new dispensary opened,” he said.

Leaders in the County have called on the Government to upgrade and set up more health centers in remote areas to help residents access health services.

They also complained of poor infrastructure in the area citing that they rely on mobile clinics for medical services.

Riwo member of County assembly David Alekulem asked the health Cabinet Secretary to open the new facility.

Kapenguria Mp Samuel Moroto who spoke on Sunday when he inspected the Kanyarkwat dispensary, which is yet to be opened, said equalization funds were used to set up health facilities in the region.

He said when the Kanyarakwat dispensary is opened and others upgraded, they will serve even Ugandans.

“We thank volunteers working in the dispensary without pay, We have built another dispensary at Endough which is 150 kilometers away.

He said the dispensary needs to be upgraded to level three.

Moroto said that the County was one of the marginalized regions by previous regimes before devolution and that they have to deliver to the residents.

“We were left behind in development for a long time,” Moroto noted.

Moroto urged the county and national governments to help in building health centers in the area to improve health care.

However, Heath CEC in the County Clare Parklea called on the national government to increase funds in the health sector to help improve health care in the County.

Parklea called for cooperation among leaders and health workers in the County.

“We need more resources so that we can have universal health care. The health department is the biggest department with over 800 workers,” she said.

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