Earlier this year, MAF joined forces with CURE International to facilitate mobile medical clinics on Lamu Island and in Bura — two isolated communities in southern Kenya.

Lamu Island and Bura do not have adequate healthcare. In March, MAF transported orthopedic doctors from CURE International to provide ‘on-the-spot’ care for children living with cerebral palsy.

It took MAF just two hours to fly the team from Nairobi to Lamu Island instead of eight hours by road. Then they flew to Bura — another 45 minutes by air.

The CURE doctors assessed more than 80 patients in just 48 hours.

MAF assists those with Cerebral palsy in remotest Kenya

“Some will never walk”

CURE treats children or refers them for life-changing surgery. For some, this is the first time their condition has been given a name. Dr Adhan explains what causes cerebral palsy.

“Mostly they’re born with it. It’s often the result of prolonged labour. Women can’t reach a doctor so anoxic injury happens — a lack of oxygen, which injures the baby’s brain.

“Some will never walk. If they’re vertical, we can fuse the vertebrae so they can sit upright in a wheelchair. Others walk with difficulty, so we release the hard tissue around their joints so they can walk straight.

“We’re trying to improve their mobility. Cerebral palsy is 100% about care. We advise lots of physiotherapy so they can strengthen their muscles. If they don’t use their muscles, they will completely lose their function.”

MAF assists those with Cerebral palsy in remotest Kenya

The stigma of deformity

People with cerebral palsy are often ostracized, as Special Needs Case Officer Victor explains.

“I do advocacy and empowerment activities because people are fearful of their children accessing services. They think that they will be laughed at. There needs to be more education so that they learn it’s not all about shame or witchcraft.

“They need to understand that a disabled child has a future.”

Fellow MAF passenger Dr Fasto agrees, “Sometimes, they think such children are cursed.

“They won’t let them go outside or take them to hospital. If we do help someone and they respond to treatment, people say, ‘Ah, this one is actually treatable!’ Every time we do a surgery, we kill the stigma!”

MAF assists those with Cerebral palsy in remotest Kenya

Bravin and Metrin

Metrin, mother of 13-year-old Bravin, knows all about being ostracized.

When Bravin was four months old, Metrin noticed that his left foot curved when he tried to stand. A local dispensary told her to wait for him to get older before they would administer any treatment.

Metrin’s husband left them because of Bravin’s disability, so — as a single parent – she was forced to bring up her son alone on a limited income. Metrin wanted to care for Bravin at home, but had to pay the rent and put food on the table.

She heard about CURE International from a friend. The doctor told her that Bravin had cerebral palsy and needed surgery. There was a chance that her son could walk normally.

Metrin was grateful for Bravin’s treatment and the pastoral care they received. His operation wouldn’t have been possible without CURE International and MAF.

It’s hopeful that Bravin will eventually go to school.

MAF assists those with Cerebral palsy in remotest Kenya

Early treatment is key

Delayed treatment can affect quality of life. Treating children early is more effective than waiting until adulthood.

“If you catch them early,” Dr Fasto continues, “it’s better. But, because the community is isolated and not seeking medical care, often we don’t see them until they are serious.

“When the child reaches five, the bone is deformed and the tendons are tight. At that stage, we have to do surgery to release the tendons.”

CURE International’s partnership with MAF has enabled more children in remote communities to be reached across vast distances.

Of the 83 patients seen by CURE’s staff in March, 18 went on to receive life-transforming surgery. All have been properly diagnosed and treated.

Ultimately, increased mobility by non-surgical or surgical means leads to a better quality of life.

MAF assists those with Cerebral palsy in remotest Kenya

STORY by Claire Gilderson with PHOTOS by Jenny Davies