Forging New Partnerships Through Health Campaigns
The greatest potential challenge for wildlife conservation is gaining the support of local people, who will not only be motivated to offer their support but will also voluntarily act as the first line of defence against instigators of wildlife crimes.
Kilimani Primary School sits north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in a volatile area that suffers from significant tribal conflict arising from competition for resources such as water, land and pasture. Insecurity and instability do not only affect peace and prosperity in the area; they also put constant pressure on law enforcement agencies, creating security loopholes that criminals such as poachers gladly take advantage of.
“Insecurity for people also means insecurity for wildlife,” John Pameri, Lewa’s Chief Security Officer affirms.
The area’s close proximity, and the consequent threat the insecurity poses to wildlife prompted the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to seek ways of engaging the community, gain their trust and eventually come up with measures that would not only help protect wildlife but also the people. Apart from insecurity, there is also widespread poverty and limited access to healthcare. School going children are most affected by this lack of adequate medical attention. With this in mind, Lewa chose a health campaign at Kilimani Primary School as the first level of engagement with this community.
More than just a health exercise
In May 2012, armed with drugs and other medical paraphernalia, Lewa’s clinic staff and volunteers from the Conservancy carried out the first medical exercise in the school. It was a great success with over 400 students receiving de-worming drugs and treatment for minor wounds and illnesses.
However, the nurses in attendance quickly realized that one visit was not going to be enough. Word had spread throughout the community of free health care being offered at the school, and residents suffering from various diseases came in droves with the hope of also receiving treatment. Another health campaign that would not only attend to students but also to members of the community was deemed necessary. This was carried out in July 2012, with the following outcome:
- A total of 325 children and adults received treatment for common illnesses with the most frequent cases being respiratory tract infections, amobiasis and skin conditions such as tinea tapitis
- 38 children with jiggers received treatment
- Six patients were referred to Isiolo General Hospital for specialized treatment
The turnout by members of the community was so overwhelming that by end of day, majority of the students had still not been attended to. Lewa plans to visit the school for a third time in the near future to complete the health checkups.
The positive reception to the health campaigns has created a strong base for future engagement with this community. It is a step in the right direction towards establishing a cordial relationship that will create a platform for discussion on how to enhance security in the area, and therefore protect both people and wildlife.