By Phyllis Nyambura
The only time he has ever come to Africa was 20 years ago. Then, the middle aged man visited Morocco and Egypt just to have fun. Today, however, he has decided to turn the tables. Just a little bit. The diabetic man is braving the scorching sun as he cycles his way round the rough terrain of Kenya to raise money for a worthy cause. AMREF, Maternal and Child health programmes.
Meet Gerard ten Buuren, from Holland who despite age and his health is ready to brave a 360 km long track on a bicycle as he gears towards improving the health of African mothers and children. The 47 year-old raised the highest amount of 8,500 Euros towards the organisation's health causes.
While 99 per cent of Kenyan women attend ante-natal clinics at least once in their life, only 46 per cent of deliveries in the country are carried out by skilled attendants.
Currently, maternal mortality stands at 578 per 100,000 live births, while infant mortality stands at 32 per 1,000 live births. Under five mortality stands at 54 per 1,000 live births.
These statistics paint a grim picture of access to maternal health care, where the situation for women from impoverished backgrounds is even more serious.
But the country hopes to reverse this. To attain MDGs 4 and 5, Kenya aims to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by 75 per cent by 2015.
This is why such sponsors such as Gerard, are so important to AMREF, which hopes to assist the government in reversing maternal mortality deaths.
“I was motivated to come first because, being a diabetic I needed to improve my health. I found it a good combination to fundraise for an International Health organisation like AMREF, whose health agenda is known worldwide, while working on my own health. Plus I wanted to see Africa again, experience the culture and see the wildlife,” the 47-year-old, father of three, says.
AMREF Country Director, Dr Lennie Bazira Kyomuhangi, saw the cycling event as a good opportunity to create awareness about AMREF maternal and child health programmes on the ground. “We hope to mobilise the community and especially women to attend antenatal clinics. We also hope to save more pregnant mothers and children under five,” she said during the flag off event, on Sunday.
Currently the Dutch government supports the Community Based health Management Information System (CGHMIS), in which community health workers get adequate skills on collecting data on Maternal and child health.
As he bikes his way through the dusty path, in temperatures above 30 degrees, at Kibwezi, Gerard is a satisfied man. He has not only managed to work on his health in a span of months, but he has seen his dream of raising more money come true.
“I find this trip very interesting. We all wondered whether Kenyans knew of our coming. But we found very warm people on our track. Of course, there are those people who were looking at us thinking we are crazy to bike race in the hot sun,” Gerard, says with a chuckle.
Gerard is among 99 cyclists from the Netherlands, who have been taking part in an 8-day cycling event, that started Sunday, October 23 at Kibwezi. The bikers have managed to raise over 600, 000 Euros in support, to take part in the event dubbed Kenya Classic Tour.
“I heard about the event in December from a friend. I thought it was going to be a big challenge, taking my condition. But I thought I should join up. My family thought I was mad,” Gerard, relates.
But to castigate any doubts as to his ability in taking part in the event, he carried out research and the feedback was encouraging.
“I found I could do it. Plus I have a sensor on my arm, that measures blood sugar level. If it gets too low, it raises an alarm,” Gerard, a program Manager for the Dutch police, says.
In March this year he started training to improve his stamina and so far the results have been encouraging. “I started off by mountain biking for 40-60km everyday. By the time I came here I could do 200km,” he says.
As he continues with next leg of cycling, the man whose greatest sponsorship came from his healthcare provider, CZ Holland, is upbeat that he is able to put a smile on many a suffering child face.
“It would be nice to see the money used to provide better health care and clean water for people here (Kenya). In Holland, we have very good health care, than what I have seen here. I feel motivated to do something to help out,” the man who rides for mostly fun, says.
Though, he is not sure he will do the bike race next year, he is enthusiastic about such-like projects, where he can be able to tour as he renders help. “You know a week ago, my friends were thinking about touring Mt Kilimanjaro, and I informed them maybe it's a better idea to climb as we fundraise for a worthy cause,” Gerard, says.Support our programs by making a donation.