In the early 1980s Kenya began a process of privatizing its open grazing land into group ranches. This significant land-use change has forced traditionally nomadic, pastoral peoples, including the Maasai, to adapt to more sedentary agro-pastoral lifestyles that confine them to smaller plots of land. The Maasai, a proud and historically self-sufficient society are now facing many social, political, economic, and environmental challenges. The result has increased their vulnerability to disease and famine, and they frequently rely on relief food and scarce water resources to survive.
This major shift from nomadism to pastoralism in East Africa has brought about new health problems for the Maasai, including an escalation in sanitation-related and water-borne diseases, infant and childhood disease, and HIV/AIDS. Access to quality health care, both physically and culturally, poses a critical issue for this predominantly rural population. The fact that there are virtually no baseline data on Maasai public health status in southern Kenya adds another dimension to this public health challenge.
"This experience made me lay aside all my preconceived notions of what I, as a future public health professional, would do when going into to a developing community. I learned that it’s not always reaching for the ideal, but first grasping at the attainable and then working upwards from there."
—Erin Eisenhardt, SUNY Albany School of Public Health & SFS Public Health and Environment Summer '10
FIELD EXPEDITIONS AND EXERCISES
- Visit Maasai villages and group ranches, local health clinics and dispensaries, and HIV/AIDS clinics
- Safari in Amboseli National Park to learn about the region’s environmental context and observe wildlife
- Learn about the socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental issues related to public health and health care services in rural Kenya
- Assess and analyze health issues and report findings and recommendations to key stakeholders and communities of interest
SFS students live at our Kilimanjaro Bush Camp (KBC), near the town of Kimana, and situated in the remote foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. The camp is nestled within a lush zone of yellow acacia trees, giving a perfect view of the magnificent mountains in the distance. Students sleep in thatched-roof bandas and enjoy the main building or chumba, which houses a dining room, kitchen, and classroom. Ample space at camp allows for outdoor games and exploration.