2010: Global Scholar Adeel Iqbal's Blog from Kenya September


Online Mini-journal: Rotary Global Scholar Adeel Iqbal, hosted by the Rotary Haddenham & District, shares brief updates and stories from his visit to the Kenyan coast. He is there gaining some public health field work experience as part of his MSc Global Health Science course at the University of Oxford

Post #1:
A Warm Welcome

Warm, friendly smiles greeted me as soon as I stepped off the plane into Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. What more could a person ask for? I felt welcome from the start

Alas, this was just the first leg of the journey. I still had to catch a flight tomorrow to Mombasa, and then travel by road northward along the country's eastern coastline to get to my final destination. But that was for tomorrow. Tonight, I simply needed to get settled and a bit oriented. And to take in as much as I could of Nairobi before falling asleep: I couldn't help but wonderwhen or if I'd be here again

The flight wasn't too bad - interestingly enough, it took me almost as long to fly to Kenya from the UK as it does to get back home to San Francisco. The only difference was that there wasn't much of a change in time zones in my new home. This was quite welcome

Once settled at my accommodations for the evening, I roamed the surroundings a bit, only to learn that Nairobi's central business district shuts down quite early. Most shops and eateries closed by 9pm, so I didn't have too many options when it came time for dinner: "Sorry, we're closed."

I lucked out, though, with my pick, being provided "pilau" with small side dishes of grilled lamb and minced meat curry. Though I first had selected items from the menu, only to learn that my choices were not available, I resorted to choosing with my eyes: "How about you just get me what they're having?" And what "they" were having was delicious. It had a bit of a South Asian taste, which certainly seemed a bit surprising initially

Little did I know what lay ahead . . .

With my friendly taxi driver, Dominic, of Nairobi as he drops me off for the flight from Nairobi to Mombasa

Post #2
The Warm Welcome Continues 

Swooped up from the Mombasa airport, and greeted by a smiling host and taxi driver, I began the trek north to Kilifi - the final destination. A bit hungry, I asked my kind driver and host if we could stop for a bite somewhere along the way. The request led us to Mtwapa, a small town along the Kenyan coast en route to our destination. Timing seemed to not be on our side, though, as the road-side restaurant selected by our host said it would take 45 minutes to prepare a meal. Hearing that, and seeing droplets of water begin to fall from the sky, we opted to head straight home and eat upon arrival. A call was made to the guest house. Food would be ready as soon as we got there. Brilliant

Regardless of whether or not one believes in omens, it couldn't have hurt that as soon as we reached the Kilifi Bridge on the Mombasa Highway, the heavy rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and the sun shone through on the beautiful blue waters of the Kilifi creek below. As we passed over the creek, I looked out and saw a picturesque coastline, dotted with small beachside resorts and homes. Within five minutes, we would be home, just steps away from the place I'd be
working for the coming weeks . . .

With my friendly coursemate, Rahul, alongside the Kilifi Creek just days after arrival. Rahul, of Nepal, is working on issues related to pneumococcus in Kilifi over the coming weeks 

Post #3
Stark contrast

Without any prior knowledge, a visitor to The Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme campus will likely be a bit surprised when first stepping foot on site. The advanced scientific research facility is surrounded by rural coastal communities in what is one of Kenya's most impoverished districts. Computers equipped with high-speed wireless Internet, microbiology laboratory testing facilities, filtered water dispensers and a series of database managers sit inside a state-of-the-art campus that has a mission to improve health and strengthen medical research capacity. Along with two fellow Oxford course mates, I am here for a short field work assignment to serve as the core of my master's thesis. Under the tutelage of very dedicated, accomplished and kind supervisors, I am examining the association between severe anaemia and mortality in children admitted to the adjacent district hospital here. It is going to be an exciting few months . . .

A warm Sunday afternoon at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust
Research Programme campus shortly after my arrival in Kilifi

Daily triage.

"It's a blessing and a curse, the improvement in transport we have seen," said the doctor I was shadowing for the evening in the children's wards at the local district hospital. "We've received a number of cheap motorcycles from East Asia in the past years which means it has become much
more affordable for people to move around. Unfortunately, it also means we've had a rise in the number of road traffic accidents. These are one of the biggest causes of mortality here." His comments came as we saw a young girl come into the ward, her right knee wrapped and her left leg tied just above her ankle with bloodied cloths. The doctor said she had likely experienced a fracture from her collision with a motorcycle. He had to make sure she was stable and attempt to prevent infection of the wounds 

It was about 7pm, and this case only illustrated one of the many challenges confronting the Coast. That night I watched the doctor treat children suffering from severe anaemia due to malarial illness, pre-term babies fighting asphyxia, and various forms of malnutrition. My time with him shed light on the critical need for improvements in the quantity and access to good quality medical care in the region 

Some patients, the doctor explained, had walked for days to reach the medical facility. Others had mothers who were being treated at the same time  for a separate illness in the maternal ward. For babies battling severe asphyxia, likelihood for survival was quite slim 

I admired the doctor's calm approach to each of his patients. It was clear he was passionate about his work and cared about all who had come in for treatment. No doubt, I learned a great deal watching his movements and listening to his words . . . certainly, the experience allowed me to better understand my own data analysis work . . .



Adeel Iqbal

I am truly honored and enthused to have been awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for my studies at the University of Oxford this Fall. No doubt, I anxiously await my departure for Great Britain and the start of my MSc Global Health Science course.

photos: Adeel Iqbal

I greatly look forward to learning about our world's most pressing health challenges and their potential solutions during the one-year program at Oxford's Department of Public Health. The course will surely build on my undergraduate background in Development Studies and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as my recent work as both a City Hall Fellow in the San Francisco Department of Public Works and public health program director in Southwest India

I hope to carry forward the Rotary missions of "Service Above Self" and "Doing Good in the World" through my research as a student in England and future work. As part of fulfilling this vision, I wish to continue travelling the globe and pursuing my passion for learning about new communities and cultures. My time in the UK will certainly be quite a change from the California coast where I was born and raised, and I am excited to explore the country's history, traditions and customs!

I owe great thanks to the Rotary Club of Fremont and District 5170 for their encouragement and generous support, as well as to my kind hosts of District 1090. I very much look forward to meeting and getting to know the Rotarians of Haddenham and District!

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