Starting from the very beginning

30 06 2011

By Joy Liu

Jambo from Muhuru Bay, Kenya! My name is Joy and I’m a rising sophomore. I will be spending 8 weeks in Kenya, 7 of those devoted to a childhood vaccination study in Muhuru Bay. I am one of three students involved in the vaccination study from our group of fifteen Duke students. While we are all staying at the WISER campus, we are involved in various projects. Some are teaching at WISERbridge schools while others are conducting research on sanitary pads. I chose to join the childhood vaccination group because I’m interested in interacting with the local health clinic and childhood health.

Just to provide a little bit of background information, Muhuru Bay is a small fishing village on the shore of Lake Victoria. The WISER school (, located in Muhuru Bay, has provided us with a community during our stay here. When we first arrived about a week ago, we were welcomed by the girls in such a heart-warming fashion that erased all weariness from the 12-hour journey. Stepping out of the car into the dark, I could hear the singing coming nearer before we were all embraced by girl after girl. They took our hands and led us to the assembly space where we were welcomed in a ceremony memorable to me in the voices of over sixty girls singing and clapping. Getting to know them better in the past couple of days, whether that’s talking during meals or playing volleyball, has been precious.

WISER has provided a starting point for our study, especially in its connection to the local clinic. One of the needs identified by the clinic is desire to improve childhood vaccination rates. The Kenyan Ministry of Health sets a numerical target goal of vaccines that should be administered based on an estimated birthrate. Muhuru Bay has fallen under the goal in the past years. Some doctors believe that it’s because vaccines have side effects that lead mothers to believe the vaccine will make their child sick. Our goal is to survey women in the area and find out what their apprehensions are and how we can alleviate these anxieties and spread awareness. Through the study, we would like to identify the obstacles that prevent mothers from having their children recieve all vaccinations and possibly enact an intervention to overcome this obstacle. Our biggest challenge is in identifying the mothers to talk to since only the mother has a wholistic immunization record. We’ve brainstormed holding baby care education events, advertising in the schools, combing through clinic records, and conducting it completely randomly. I think we got a good lead with insight into the various women’s groups that are here. Although less than half the women in the community belong to a women’s group, they are able to reach a large portion of the women in the community through word-of-mouth and events such as seminars.

Thank you for taking the time to read the beginnings of this journey. Asante sana.




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