Boni community children prone to illnesses after missing out on vaccine exercises

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Lamu, KENYA: The Boni minority community in Lamu who have missed out on numerous vaccination exercises now say their children are now prone to illnesses that would have otherwise been contained had they acquired the vaccines.

The Boni who are also among Kenya’s last forest community live on the Lamu-Somalia border.

Due to the state of security caused by frequent al Shabaab attacks and raids in their areas, the community has missed out on almost all vaccination campaigns initiated by the national government through the Ministry of Health as medics shun their villages for fear of being attacks by the militants who said to be still lurking within.

The Bonis occupy the five villages of Mangai, Mararani, Milimani, Basuba and Kiangwe all of which are considered terror-prone due to the frequency of al Shabaab attacks there.

The community now says their children are prone to all manner of immunizable illnesses as they watch helplessly.

Several times a year, the Ministry of Health has launched massive Polio, Malaria and Tetanus vaccination campaigns among others.

However, the children from Boni land have missed out on most of these crucial vaccines leading to an outbreak of the various illnesses among the unimmunized children.

The Community says the situation became worse since 2014 when al Shabaab attacks started happening all across Lamu but especially in Basuba ward that houses all the five Boni villages.

As a result, health workers have been avoiding the area whenever such campaigns are launched for fear of being attacked by militants.

Over 500 children from the Boni community haven’t been immunized against Polio, Tetanus, Malaria among others.

The Chairperson of the council of Boni elders Ali Gubo says their children have been surviving by God’s mercies.

All dispensaries in the five villages have remained closed since the first terror attack took place in 2014 with others being raided, looted clean and vandalized by the militants.

Gubo says the community has proposed that the government sets up an all-round health center in one of the villages to enable them to get all the medical attention needed for them and their children adding that it was dangerous for children to miss out on any necessary vaccinations.

“All dispensaries here have been closed since the first terror attacks took place in 2014.The buildings stand desolate.The worst part is that our children haven’t been vaccinated ever since no one wants to come here.If we had a health centre right here, then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not our kids will be vaccinated.This kind of treatment must stop,” said Gubo.

Women in the community have also had a hard time especially for the pregnant ones who have had to miss out on pre-natal services and other vaccines due to the lack of functional medical facilities.

Khadija Gurba, a mother of four from Mangai says pregnant women and their babies have been left at the mercy of witch doctors and herbalists or home deliveries that have resulted in many maternal and neonatal deaths.

“I lost two children at the hands of a witch doctor who claimed could help me deliver.Many women have gone through hell when delivery time comes and as such many have died along with their babies.The life we live in the Boni community is dangerous.We wonder if the government is even aware,” said Gurba.

Last year, the county government of Lamu issued an alert over the possibility of an outbreak of communicable diseases in villages on the Lamu-Somalia border due to a large number of patients who were crossing into Lamu from Somalia to seek medical attention.

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