It’s early on the morning of Thursday, 23 August 2012. We are at the Chemolingot Sub-district Hospital, where SSG&PM treatment is being administered to patients suffering from kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis). In one of the wards, sitting on a hospital bed, is Lemarus Tebakwani Lukeno, a 23-year-old kala-azar patient, who has been undergoing treatment for five days.
Lemarus is from Kisitei, located in Kenya’s East Pokot District, where his livelihood is that of a pastoralist, honey keeper, and farmer. While suffering from kala-azar symptoms, he walked 30 km, which was halfway to the hospital and took public transportation for the rest of the journey (another 30 km).
Lemarus looks into the distance as he waits for the ward round to begin. It is 8:30 a.m. and soon all the kala-azar patients will get the first SSG&PM medication for the day.
‘I have been suffering from kala-azar for two months. I used to take herbal medicines – this was my mother´s advice. At the time, we did not know how to treat the disease since no one in my family had suffered from kala-azar. So we did what we knew best; taking herbal medicine was the only known option. In my community, people suffer from kala-azar, I was lucky that one of our neighbours told me about the clinic where he had undergone treatment for kala-azar. That is what led me to this place [Chemolingot Sub-district Hospital].
When I arrived here the first morning, I received my injection I felt such a relief from my symptoms. My fever, headache, and weakness reduced. I have been here for five days and I am glad that the treatment will only take 17 days because economically this disease has affected me negatively. I am not working. In addition, herbal remedies were expensive: I spent over 10,000 shillings on these traditional medicines. However, when I came to the clinic I only paid twenty shillings and I am getting better. If I ever meet someone with kala-azar, I will not hesitate to recommend this clinic. The treatment works.
My hope in the future is that I get back to my routine. Right now everything back home is on hold, all my responsibilities.’