Guest post by Dr. Gilchrist Lokoel , ChildFund alumni
Gilchrist Lokoel is a physician in the Turkana district of Kenya.
They say that if you want to know how a society is doing, look at the way it treats its mothers and children.
My experience in giving back to society began in university, where I was the chairman of the Medical Students Association of Moi University Medical School. We took free medical camps to disadvantaged communities in Mt. Elgon, Turkana (my home area) and Pokot. We also visited and had medical camps for inmates at prisons on a yearly basis.
Later as an intern in Mombasa, my colleagues and I managed to put in a lot of hours day and night trying to save the lives of mothers and children, especially during the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007-2008.
Now, upon qualification, I deliberately chose a transfer to Turkana (my home area), which my superiors found very odd as it was considered a hardship area. Upon arriving, I discovered all the doctors had resigned as there were no prospects for a young doctor to prosper in this difficult and remote area. So, I worked alone as the only medical officer for three months before the government sent three more doctors. It was during this time that I was attending to all patients — maternity and general surgery, accident victims and gunshot victims arising out of the inter-ethnic conflicts.
I worked day and night with minimal motivation and resources. It’s the spirit of helping others that has kept the fire burning.
Two months later, I was promoted to District Medical Officer of Health. During my two-year tenure, immunization coverage rose from 47.3 percent to 58.3 percent. Malnutrition dropped from 22 percent to 16 percent. We increased outreach to hard-to-reach areas, offering medical services to the nomads. Medical camps were introduced on a quarterly basis to save the lives of the poor. We renovated a pediatric ward with modern equipment. And we increased disaster preparedness and response, especially for preventable illnesses like polio and measles
The Day of the African child is a day to challenge all of us to hear the plea of African children to live and be who they want to be in future. It’s a day to give children a second chance to reach their full potential and contribute to their nation.
After all, ChildFund gave me the opportunity to be who I am today.