John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
Studies of the Maasai, the Luhya, and Nairobi's Urban Fringe
35. Health Issues : 483-486 | The Role of the Church : 487-492
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Health Issues : 483-486
.483. While some health issues are a problem world-wide, others are directly related to cultural practices. Malnutrition is widespread among the Maasai due to their longstanding opposition to crop farming ... resulting in a diet dominated by milk, since few families can afford to buy corn meal.  The Samburu have goats and sheep for meat, but they are reluctant either to slaughter them or sell them to buy corn. All forms of hunting are excluded (by law now as well as custom), and older folk even frown on the eating of eggs from chicken ... because they come from birds!
484. People here believe that immunization weakens a child's limbs, so few are protected in this way, and TB is common as a result. The practice of wife inheritance undermines attempts to limit the spread of AIDS (see Luhya frames 279 & 280). Eye infections are common. And the delivery of health services  north of Maralal is hamstrung by vehicle running costs. Infant mortality is high as noted above, and the rate of population growth is significantly lower than the national average.
(Mobile clinic operated by NGO working among the Gabbra.)
485. The combination of permanent villages and opposition to digging creates problems of its own. Among nomadic pastoralists the disposal of human waste was rarely a problem: people defecated outside their village and moved on. Today, among herders confined to limited tracts of land and living year-round in the same place, it’s a serious problem. And it is compounded by opposition to the very idea of digging pit toilets like this one.
486. Many Samburu have tape worms. These produce large quantities of eggs which are released in the human excrement which is now spread across pastures around villages. When the cattle eat the grass they pick up tapeworm eggs, which hatch out inside them. This leads to the development of numerous cysts, each with a "daughter worm" inside it. When the cattle are slaughtered and the meat is eaten, the worms are spread to many more people.
Role of the Church : 487-492
487. The early Christian missionaries made little headway in their attempts to evangelize the Maasai, who already worshipped the God Enkai to whom they were indebted for their land and their cattle. (Church of the Good Shepherd, Maralal)
488. Today, though, there are a number of Anglican congregations among the Samburu, and the one in Maralal even has a priest from their tribe. In addition, as elsewhere in East Africa, there are a number of independent Pentecostal congregations (see frames 452-454).
489. As in Europe and America most of the pews are occupied by women, and they do much of the “outreach” work. These women walk from village to village to sing hymns and share a Gospel message.
490. The sense of personal freedom which allowed Anna Lanyasunya to challenge entrenched practices and try something different (in frames 459-472) was an expression of her Christian faith. And Daudi, the lay preacher who dug the latrine, has followed suit.
491. He was also keen to show me the bee-hive he had made to provide honey for his children, challenging the age-old prejudice that decreed that this was a job for aboriginal hunter-gatherers only.
492. In addition, the Samburu Rural Development Centre, which supplied better cattle, sheep and goats, windows and chimneys, seeds to plant, mineral salt, veterinary supplies, and a mill to crush the grain was itself an initiative of the Anglican Church -- established with help from OXFAM, Action Aid, World Vision and TEAR Fund.


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