Seeing the Link Between Health and Poverty in Kenya, Part 1

MORO, Kenya – On a recent visit to this community in western Kenya, near the shores of Lake Victoria, I found inspiration in an integrated approach to the area’s numerous development challenges. 

Nyanza Province, where Moro is located, has some of the worst health indicators in Kenya, including the country’s highest HIV and malaria rates. Rural communities here also struggle with poverty, food insecurity, and lack of clean water and sanitation facilities. Moro itself is a hilly area prone to intense flooding during the rainy season, followed by equally intense droughts.

Yet when I visited the women and men of Moro last week, their words countered these challenges. “We are strong,” proclaimed one woman — part of a group of HIV-positive individuals — to me in front of her community. “We are healthy,” another elderly resident said proudly.

In 2008, Episcopal Relief & Development’s local church partner Anglican Development Services (ADS-Nyanza), the development arm of the Anglican Church of Kenya, began working in Nyanza to foster this determination. ADS-Nyanza and Moro residents felt that stigmatization in the community was preventing HIV-positive individuals from leading healthy, productive lives. They found that sometimes this sense came from these individuals themselves – evident in their own lack of belief that they could be healthy, earn money and have a hopeful future.

To break down this cycle, ADS-Nyanza began an integrated development program, an approach that recognizes individuals and communities have various, often interrelated needs. For example, good health is not possible without economic security, and vice versa. Health also is not possible without clean water. Because these needs are interlinked, responding to them together – and treating people holistically – can have a greater, more sustainable impact than addressing a single issue.

ADS-Nyanza helped HIV-affected Moro residents form six groups that have met every Tuesday for the last few years. During these meetings, the groups learned how to start and manage small collective businesses – including beekeeping, poultry rearing and raising dairy goats – and to maintain a savings and loans program. Group members regularly contribute to a fund from which the group then makes loans to members and supports urgent needs, such as building a home for a widow, purchasing medicine during a life-threatening illness, or paying for a funeral.

ADS-Nyanza also provided health messages on such topics as eating nutritious foods, practicing good hygiene, and accessing HIV/AIDS treatment for adults and medication to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Water tanks and latrines were also built to improve water and sanitation in the community.

What has happened since then? Find out in Part 2.


Saranga Jain is a Program Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.