When we look at Kenya from a healthcare perspective communicable diseases are seen as the primary concern. The top five causes of mortality are HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria respectively (WHO 2006). While these are of major importance other concerning and often interrelated healthcare problems can suffer due to a lack of appropriate attention. Neurological diseases are one such problem.
The leading causes of death of children under 5 are neonatal causes which include infection, birth asphyxia and congenital abnormalities amongst others (WHO 2006). Inadequate primary health care, poor birthing techniques and untreated infectious diseases are often responsible and the survivors of these conditions are often left with severe neurological impairment. When combined with other common neurological diseases such as epilepsy we are left with a serious health problem.
Neurological diseases can cause significant detriment to the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of the people they affect. They must be addressed at a medical and social level and this is often necessary on a long-term basis.
Prevention and early treatment are essential due to the deteriorating nature of lesions to neural tissue. This is often difficult because of lack of awareness and a lack of sufficient neurological specialist care in the sub-Saharan region. In Kenya alone there are only 13 Neurosurgeons serving a population of 32 million.
This is where ANDREF can help.
- Conduct clinics that were established in Kibera and Waithaka.
- Diagnose and treat neurological disorders particularly Epilepsy.
- Dispense medications to those suffering from Epilepsy.
- Fund corrective neurosurgical procedures with the backing of pro-bono neurosurgeons.
- Support Nairobi Family Support Services.
On the 12th February 1996 the “African Neurological Diseases Research Foundation” ANDREF was officially registered to the satisfaction of the Attorney General of the Republic of Kenya.
The initiative was started by the late Professor Renato Ruberti a pioneer of Neurosurgery in Kenya. He devoted a large part of his professional career helping to ensure Kenyans lacking resources would get medical and surgical help for neurological diseases that they were unable to pay for.
In conjunction with Nairobi Family Support Services Prof. Ruberti established clinics in Kibera and Waithaka, two of Kenya’s largest slum areas, to clinically assess patients and to dispense medications to those persons suffering from Epilepsy.
During these clinics new patients present with varying neurological problems and are assisted with investigations such as CT scans and EEG in order to establish a firm diagnosis. Furthermore, operations that are required such as shunts for hydrocephalus are also performed free of charge, however even though the operations are “free” hospital expenses still have to be paid.
The Foundation is a non profit, non political, non religious organization run by a board of Directors. Since his death in October 2007 this Foundation has been managed by his wife Marieke Ruberti. As a Registered Nurse in England and Kenya with training in Midwifery she has a great deal of experience in the community and hospitals. She is supported by Mr. David Oluoch-Olunya, a Neurosurgeon trained in Glasgow and Edinburgh and a long time colleague of Professor Ruberti. He works on an entirely voluntary basis in the Kibera and Waithaka Clinics and manages the more complex cases in his offices in Nairobi Hospital.