Behavioural Change to Enhance Epidemics and Pandemic Preparedness among Pastoralists

Written By: Super User Category: Blog

Life in the Maasai village is very much centralized around the rearing of livestock and very much referred to as pastoralism. Among the Maasai’s, the cattle are a symbol of wealth, pride, status and source of livelihoods. The importance of their livestock is reflected in the way their cattle are protected from wild animals within an enclosure.

Meet 13-year-old Nasianta Loso, a student and CP3 project beneficiary at Nkoilale Primary School who has been raised in a nomadic pastoralist community in Narok county. While growing up, Naisanta’s mother Mrs. Kurito Loso,40, always reminded her that a cow is a source of life. Her daily routine includes milking the cows and taking them out for grazing. A role she enjoys during her school holidays.

Narok county has been at the center of cholera and anthrax outbreaks, having lost three lives due to cholera and three lives from anthrax at the beginning of 2019. The underlying factors contributing to the epidemic related deaths are highly associated with the cultural practices among the pastoralist communities within the county.

According to Naisanta Loso, when cattle dies, the Maasai herders open the dead carcass and traditionally diagnose the cause of the animal’s death. One of the popular traditional method that was used was burying the cattle’s spleen in soil and if it appeared to increase in size and bursts, the meat was considered unsafe for consumption but if there was no increase the meat was considered safe for consumption. 

“Interestingly, some of the villagers died after consuming the carcass meat. We did not understand what caused skin rashes, vomiting and death of our community members after eating a dead cow. It was until my daughter came and educated us on the dangers of eating dead cattle as they can transmit anthrax, a knowledge she acquired through the Kenya Red Cross Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program. Today, we don’t eat dead cows suspected to have been infected by anthrax, but burry them”, says Murito Losos

On 7th October 2018, Kenya Red Cross with the support of IFRC and USAID, launched the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Program(CP3), to strengthen pastoralist community resilience during and after the epidemics. Through this program, a total of 50 schools and 48 school patrons were sensitized on CP3 at a community level to increase advocacy on preparedness in a bid to prevent widespread of pandemic. Since then they have been able to cascade the knowledge to the students through health clubs. It is during these interactive sessions that Naisanta adapted key behavioural changes such disposing of carcasses that are suspected to have died of anthrax and fencing the area to prevent further infections, washing hands before and after milking the cows and properly cooking meat before consumption.

To further enhance community-based surveillance, 20 health workers and veterinary officers, epidemics control for volunteers (ECV), 200 Community Health Volunteers and Animal Health Diseases reporters and 15 community Health agents were taken through a very interactive approach and practical sessions on CP3