The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Life-Saving Kajiado Aids NGO Folds

An NGO in dealing with HIV/Aids in Kajiado has been closed. Mbirrikani Aids Village closed formally and ended its services at the end of November 2012, the Star has established The NGO, which was supported by the Anne Lurie Foundation, was supplying patients with ARVs.

The facility has been providing care and treatment to more than 10,000 people living with HIV through provision of anti-retroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, treatment of opportunistic infections and feeding programmes to the community in Kajiado.

The facility started as a mobile clinic 12 years ago and gradually grew into include a medical centre with an outreach programme providing critical health services toabout 70,000 people.

"We should all be extremely proud of the great progress and significant impact made in addressing the challenges of disease during our time in Mbirrikani. Literally thousands of lives from the immediate area and from a far larger geographic area have been saved", says the American philanthropist, Lurie.

Lurie, the AIDs Village Clinics' founder in a farewell message on the facility's website, said her foundation has supplied HIV commodities to the Mbirrikani Clinic since 2009.

The closure of the facility raises concerns about how its former patients will receive the medicines they need. The facility also has a large stock of medicines, including supplies ordered in November. Lurie, in an exclusive statement, gave the reason for pulling out as "lack of support from the donor community".

"We knew we needed to make the clinic financially self-sustaining. On June 30th 2003, we incorporated and registered as a US charity, AID Village Clinics, for the purpose of seeking donations from other sources. I expected the clinic would be entirely supported by others by 2009," said Lurie.

The American philanthropist said her foundation was unable to meet its goal of achieving financial sustainability. "For that reason, I made the very difficult decision to inform the board of directors of Aids Village clinics that I would end my financial support, and the board directed that the clinic be closed," Lurie said.

It is for that reason that Lurie pulled out of the country because she could no longer support the project she built for more than 12 years. The Health Care Administrator at AID Village Clinics, who only identified himself as a Dr. Onyango, has assured Kenya Government that although the facility officially closed in November it will continue dispensing medicines to its patients until the end of this January while making arrangement to have them transferred to receive services at other sites.

Onyango says that AID Village Clinics will continue to dispense ARVs until the end of December. A major challenge will be to find facilities that can easily be reached by the patients; the nearest hospital to the Mbirrikani Clinic is Lokitoktok District Hospital about 70km away.

Onyango said Kenya Pharmaceutical will monitor the transition to keep track of where the patients are transferred to and to ensure that unused commodities are redistributed to other facilities.

The hospital situated in Kajiado South, off the Emali/Loitoktok Highway, has been attending to patients from Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania and their fate is now hangs in the balance.

Medical Services Minister, Anyang' Nyong'o, is aware of the closure after he was invited to visit the hospital soon after Lurie cut off her financial support to the institution.

A health volunteer, Jacinta Mayiani, who has close links with the administrators of the hospital said she personally invited the Minister after its closure on November 30th last year.

Mayiani said all the 200 doctors and support staff, who were in Lurie's payroll, have been sent home and are not sure whether they will be engaged again.

Nyong'o is said to be in talks with Lurie and also to understand what could have led to abrupt stoppage of funds for the hospital. There were 65 doctors and nurses in the hospital including drivers, cleaners and cooks who were in Lurie's payroll.

Lurie has been, personally, paying for all the services, salaries for the workers and buying anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for all the more than 8, 000 patients.

Other than providing ARVs, the hospital has also been organizing visits to its patients around the region. According to Mayiani, the hospital has also been paying fares for some special 'clients' and providing food for them. The biggest headache for the Government is how it will cope with the number of patients' dependent on ARVs from the hospital.

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