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The Mzungu Blog, Day 4

A façade of a clinic in Vihiga, Kenya
The new rescue centre for women who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence

By Geoff Coleman, CEO of Mildmay

Wednesday 11th May, 2022

The fourth day begins with the field team meeting for breakfast at 07:00, when we had the opportunity to discuss the day ahead, the previous night’s football and the Queen’s Speech, given by Prince Charles.

The word mzungu doesn’t really mean white man, although that is what it has become through common usage, especially among African children who run around wildly pointing with glee. In fact, it is a very old Bantu word that means wanderer, which I guess we kind of are!

Our journey today will take us to Vihiga where we have been running service for just over two years. Our Mildmay Kenya Team won this contract from Global Fund for HIV because the previous NGO found it too difficult to deliver and so asked if we could do it better. So our visit today is to review and test out the claim that we could!

The road to Vihiga is fairly good but hot and dusty and will take us a few hours. It heads away from Lake Victoria and into the hills where we get to see some of Kenya’s most spectacular scenery.

Spectacular scenery in Vihiga

The first stop was the County Health Team, who we met with our own team for Vihiga. As County Teams go this is one of the most cooperative and the integration of Mildmay's Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and their own clinical teams has gone well. The County Team were pleased to report that since Mildmay took over this Global Fund project two years ago, we have now begun to see a reduction in the prevalence of HIV in the community.

SGBV facility

The second stop was the (almost) newly built facility for women fleeing from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). This project is an important first step in the provision of a safe haven, however, the project has only been funded to build the facility. There is no funding to kit it out and more importantly, there is no money in the budget to run this service!

The third stop was at a local health facility that provides community health services alongside our own Mildmay team of CHVs. This was a monthly visit to this area and it was encouraging to see so many taking advantage of the free health services on offer but also demoralising to see so many young women with HIV.

Then it was off for a late lunch where we discussed the day with the Mildmay Team before returning to the hotel. The UK Team are taking time out to discuss some of the important issues such as the relationship between Mildmay UK and Mildmay Kenya. How should this relationship evolve going forward? What are the risks and mitigation associated with such a relationship? These are all important questions that must be answered to get the best possible outcomes for the communities we serve.