Health of Women and Families in Samburu, Kenya: Chief Concerns and Treatments

Sara Marie Hines


This study examined chief health concerns and approaches to curing diseases for women and their families in Samburu County, Kenya. The research objectives involved: 1) identifying Samburu women’s greatest health concerns 2) determining how women use modern medicine and local, usually herbal, treatments, and 3) identifying access to and gaps in available health services. Local people in Samburu County, a semi-arid rural county in central Kenya, regularly face health challenges exacerbated by food insecurity, lack of clean water, seasonal factors, and sometimes stigmatization of disease. With a local female translator, fourteen focus groups, averaging eight individuals per group, were conducted with Samburu women across six villages. After identifying their most concerning health conditions, the women evaluated each condition’s seasonality, cause, and traditional and modern treatments with varying perceptions of effectiveness. Some of the most prominent concerns were HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, flu, arthritis, malaria, pneumonia, maternal health issues, and tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS—more than any other condition—ranked number one in 40% of focus groups. For some of the conditions, seasonal factors impacted the disease’s intensity or prevalence. Women of all groups used both traditional and modern medicine to treat and cure diseases, collectively naming seventy-three medicinal plants used in traditional treatments. Villages usually had a female specialist in traditional medicine and substantial traditional knowledge held by all members. However, even with a wealth of shared traditional medicinal knowledge, 70% of focus groups reported their community as generally unhealthy. This study’s identification of Samburu’s most severe, frequent, and concerning diseases can help Kenyan government workers and NGOs prioritize health services to best meet the needs of the local people of Samburu.


Samburu County, Kenya; traditional medicinal knowledge; women’s health

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