“And we give them tea”

Josephine Suleiman, Founder of OliveLink Healthcare Clinic.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning the women of Sinai slums in Nairobi, Kenya gather at the Olivelink Healthcare Clinic. They bring their children for immunizations (for which they pay KES 20) and some bring Mandazi. I ask what Mandazi is and Josephine Suleiman, Founder of Olivelink Healthcare, explains with a smile and some amusement, “Mandazi is slightly sweet fried bread (think of it as the Swahili version of a doughnut) that can be bought on the street for 5 Shillings (approximately 5 cents US). Whenever they (women) come we give them a cup of tea and we are packed until 12:30”.

It’s a powerful cup of tea. Since they began serving tea in (August 2016) the clinic has seen their numbers grow significantly (from 392 babies in the month of August 2016 to 565 babies in the month of December 2016). But the impact of the tea is not only the increase in numbers, it is the behavior change triggered.

“As you can imagine some of these mothers don’t have breakfast in the houses due to high poverty levels and when we realized that, we thought why don’t we give them a cup of tea as an appreciation of them bringing their babies for immunization.” The tea gives mothers a reason to buy Mandazi on the way to the clinic and more importantly a reason to feed themselves.

As Josephine says, “a cup of tea and Mandazi – breakfast is done and they really appreciate it”. Over breakfast while the mothers bond the Olivelink Healthcare staff give them health talks, encourage them to breast feed their babies and the importance of mothers to care of themselves. The mothers are also taught the various methods of family planning available for them and how this can help in spacing of their babies enabling them to bring up strong and healthy babies.

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