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Soil dirt on hands

Story by Alice Mitchell

It’s December 2019 and I am currently in Kenya, strengthening our health literacy program.

Living in Kenya always involves a lot of walking. It’s good exercise; I don’t do enough of this in Australia. One benefit of walking is seeing things that you wouldn’t notice if you were getting a ride on a motorbike. One thing I noticed this visit is the prevalence of ‘gweno’- chooks in local Dholuo language, and their chicks. They seem to be everywhere. Not in great numbers but just ‘around'.

You get used to them turning up in unexpected places.

So, when I walk from my accommodation for meals in the main house, there is always a chook or two around the steps. They pick up grain or small pieces of food that may have been dropped by the cook. As I walk along the road to our office each day, I always see a few chooks scratching in the maize fields or among brush on the side of the road. It’s not clear who owns them. When I drop in to a local ‘hotel’ (we would call it a café) for lunch, I have become used to seeing a chook or two under the table, or just pecking about. Yesterday I noticed two chooks sitting on eggs in a basin in a corner of the café.

Chooks are always pecking about at the daily markets too. And of course, there is the odd rooster. All the hens seem to have a few chicks with them and occasionally I see some half-grown hens. They all free-range. But there must be predators around. I was told that, every now and then, people nick other people’s chooks. I guess if you are hungry, it is tempting with chooks roaming freely about the place.

Last week I joined one of our Maternal, Newborn and Child Health workers at a ‘pregnancy club’ within a local clinic. She adeptly taught the mums about how to stay healthy, and especially how to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV in pregnancy. It is so important to be tested for the HIV virus so that mothers can take the daily medications that prevent the baby acquiring HIV. Other topics she taught about included family planning and the importance of birthing in a facility with skilled birth attendants rather than birthing at home. The inevitable chook walked into the group of seated mothers. Of course, no one took notice of it. There’s always a chook.


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