How MKU injects research-based knowledge into partner projects

MKU researchers critically investigate these projects to determine the impact they have on the beneficiary communities.

Mount Kenya University staff and students are making a difference in the community by bringing their knowledge to bear on partners’ health initiatives. Dr Peter Kirira, the Deputy Director of Research, says two projects in Marsabit run by Partners for Care are examples of such initiatives.

For two years now, the university has sustained its partnership with the non-governmental organisation (NGO). The NGO is involved in an anti-jigger campaign in the county. Also, with the support of US-based MedShare, it is improving Marsabit Hospital’s infrastructural capacity. MKU researchers critically investigate these projects to determine the impact they have on the beneficiary communities.

ger campaign has treated pupils in 14 schools in Marsabit. As a university research team, we want to confirm how the campaign has improved school attendance and the health of the beneficiaries of the treatment. We are also interested in identifying the factors that trigger jigger infestation or measures that can deal with this problem.” Dr Kirira reveals that the MKU team has learnt, for example, that when members of the community smear their houses with cow dung, they seal cracks on the walls where fleas hide

They will then prepare and disseminate reports of their findings for the benefit of humanity. As Dr Kirira explains, “some people might look at what we do as corporate social responsibility, but that is not the case. Even though our staff and our nursing students go to Marsabit to assist with the anti-jigger campaign, our primary mission is to confirm the impact of jigger treatment.” He adds: “Partners for Care’s anti-jig

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Equipping Marsabit Hospital

The equipping of Marsabit Hospital is yet another case study the MKU researchers are undertaking. Working with US humanitarian aid organisation MedShare, Partners for Care has helped equip Marsabit Hospital with incubators for newborns. MedShare sources and directly delivers surplus medical supplies and equipment to communities in need around the world. MedShare brought in the equipment and Coca Cola cleared the containers. “MKU identifies how beneficial that intervention is to a needy hospital such as Marsabit Hospital,” says Dr Kirira. Water backpack

Another initiative that MKU is studying is the water backpack that Partners for Care is promoting. The special backpack is an alternative to water Jerricans that are popular in rural Kenya as containers for transporting the precious liquid – often on the backs or shoulders of women and girls, and for long distances in dry regions such as Marsabit County. “The Jerricans are very dirty inside because it is difficult to clean them in the inside,” notes Dr Kirira. “The foldable water packs are better than the cans. Water stored in the packs can be treated and accessed through a tap. They also cool the stored water.” Explaining the involvement of MKU in the project, he says: “Partners for Care identified where women trek long distances to collect water. The role of MKU is to determine whether the water backpacks have been used for intended purposes. We have learnt that the women suffer from muscle pains from carrying

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Jerricans for long on their shoulders.” The MKU researchers are studying whether members of the community use the water backpacks, if they use them correctly, and whether they clean the liner. The study also looks at whether people can buy the water backpacks if manufactured in Kenya. Dr Francis Muregi, the Director of MKU’s Directorate of Research, Grants and Endowments, says community outreach programmes are meant to disseminate the university’s knowledge. “It is about communicating our research in a language that people can understand,” he says as he explains the rationale behind community outreach programmes. “An example is our partnership with Partners for Care and the Bungoma Hospital neonatal project. Others include dryland farming in Lodwar, Turkana County, medical camps throughout the country and the MKU-Kenya Forestry Research Institute project funded by CITI.”

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