Nancy Chemluo, A Mother’s Struggle to Cure a Child with Kala Azar

Nancy Cheluo had two sons affected by Kala Azar. East Pokot, Kenya.
Nancy Cheluo had two sons affected by Kala Azar. East Pokot, Kenya.

Visceral Leishmaniasis
West Pokot Kenya

Thursday, 23 August 2012, a sunny and very hot afternoon in West Pokot, Kenya: Dust devils circle into the air as pickup trucks packed with passengers drop off numbers of people, who all settle under a large tree in the village. This is where the community gathers for elders’ meetings. It is here that Nancy Chemluo recounts how kala azar affected two of her sons, and how she and her community changed their approach to seeking treatment.

‘A year ago, my five-year-old son was unwell. He had fever, headache, and nose bleeds. After some investigation, we found out his symptoms were those of kala azar. We tried to treat him using home remedies, which my community is accustomed to using when someone falls ill. So if one of my neighbours or anyone I know was going to Kerio valley, I would give them the money to buy me the traditional medicine. I spent a lot of money on transport and these traditional remedies.

So many people have suffered and still suffer from kala azar in my community. We have so many anthills here, and that is where the insect that spreads kala azar lives. My message to my community and anyone who will hear me is this: traditional forms of medicine for kala azar do not work! My son took them and showed no signs of improvement. He only got worse. It was like a death sentence.
I was so desperate for a solution for him. I then had a chance meeting with one of my neighbours, who told me I could get treatment in Kimalel and gave me the mobile number of a staff member. That phone call saved my son’s life.
Since then, we as a community have come to know KEMRI and DNDi. So when my four-year-old son, Jamesta Limareng, got sick last month, my family gathered at my house and made arrangements to have him taken right away to the treatment centre in Kimalel. His recovery was much faster than that of my older son: instead of a 30-day treatment, Jamesta was treated using the 17-day treatment [SSG&PM]. The shorter and better the treatment, the better for us all.’