TALAKU COMMUNITY TB INTERVENTIONS IN KAJIADO COUNTY
The Maasai house known to many as, ‘Manyatta’ is an iconic figure in Kenya and an expression of Maasai tradition. The Loaf-shaped domed houses are unique in their construction and a cause of fascination because they are built by the Maasai women. These houses seem to blend very well into the harsh environment. They are built to keep out the harsh night-time cold and the day time heat. They have no windows and herein lies the problem. These houses are death traps for any air-borne disease like TB.
When a TB infected individual shares the poorly ventilated and dimly lit house the danger of spreading TB is very high. Every cough, sneeze or laugh sees TB causing germs circulate within the house putting everyone in danger of infection. This is where Talaku Community Based Organization, supported by BMSF and its indefatigable coordinator Ms. Timpiyian Leseni are making an impact; they are challenging the traditional way of building and remodeling the Maasai landscape with modern ‘slope’ houses while fighting TB. Timpiyian has a passion to prevent TB since she is herself a TB survivor. She suffered from TB of the stomach that she suspects she might have got from either poorly prepared meat, milk or blood which are the staples among the pastoralist community. After she recovered she embarked on a mission to educate the community about the risk of TB. Among her crusades is defaulter tracing and she traverses her Kajiado County home tracing defaulters and linking them back to care at the facilities. Recently she traced a woman who she had initially brought to the hospital for Treatment only for her to sneak off again. Third time around and Talaku traced her where she lives and found that there were other four individuals who were infected with TB. They managed to link them on treatment and the serial defaulting woman was now taking treatment while confined at the Machakos prisons because Kajiado lacks a female ward where she would be treated as an in-patient.
However, prevention is better than cure and Talaku is determined to educate the Maasai so that they can re-model their houses and make them less TB risky. Talaku Community TB intervention seeks to introduce windows to the Maasai Manyatta. The windows will not only improve ventilation and let in light it will also make the houses safer because when cooking is done in the house using firewood the smoke increases the risk of respiratory tract infections and stings the eyes. In neighboring Narok County the remodeling of the houses have gone even a step higher with the incorporation of corrugated iron ‘slope’ roofs that make it possible for the women to harvest rain water for domestic use.
So apart from tracing defaulters and re-linking them to the health facility so that they can complete their TB treatment regimen Timpiyian is changing the skyline of the Maasai plains – all in the name of preventing TB.