The Chamwada Report: Dealing with birth defects

November 16, 2018
Lavender Amunga
for Chams Media Digital

Many might not be aware of how this medical condition comes into being. Others may not even know of its existence. All in all, it is necessary to be aware of the causes and preventive measures of Spinabifida and Hydrocephalus. This week, Elijah Mwangi of CHAMS media educates us on these medical conditions with discussions with experts as well as victims of the same.

Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye, neurosurgeon of Bethany Kids Children Center, Kijabe Hospital

Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye, a neurosurgeon of Bethany Kids Children’s Center at Kijabe Hospital explains that spinabifida is a back defect whose exact cause is unknown. He explains however that there is a strong association with a deficiency of folic acid in our diets. A pregnant mother requires a lot of folic acid so that the chances of the child being born with the condition become slim. Apart from that, spinabifida has also been connected with genetic correlation.

Spinabifida can be repaired only through a surgery where a child is inside the mother’s womb and this is only possible in developed countries which have the resources required. Since Kenya is still developing and thus lacks the expertise, surgeons can only perform the surgery within 48hours after birth.

Hydrocephalus on the other hand is the accumulation of water in the head. For children below three years, as the water accumulates so does the head grow since the pressure in the brain is high. When you look at a child with spinabifida, because the back is somewhat connected to the brain, most children with this condition end up struggling with hydrocephalus as well.

Elijah Mwangi conversing with Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye about the medical conditions

About 2km from the Children’s center in Kijabe Hospital, the CHAMS media team meets up with Edna Chepkemoi who is preparing to take her child who has the hydrocephalus condition to hospital. She is from Baringo but in order to be in Kijabe on time, she has to camp here at the House of Hope.

The House of Hope is a place where mothers come with their children for accommodation as their children are treated at the Kijabe hospital before it is too late. Juliana, the manager of House of Hope explains that one time a mother lost her child while on the way coming to Kijabe hospital for treatment and this was her inspiration.

Juliana, House of Hope Manager

Edna has been making these trips to the hospital for years and finally they are paying off. She explains that since their first trip in 2014, her child is making progress. She insists on proper diet in order to manage hydrocephalus i.e. foods rich in iron.

Edna Chepkemoi at the hospital with her child for check up

Experts on the other hand argue that the best way to deal with hydrocephalus is looking for preventing rather than curative measures; and when preventive measures fail, then treatment at birth should be immediate.

Edna Chepkemoi conversing with a member of CHAMS media team                                                                                                                                          


"If the doctor had discovered earlier, my child would not have become this way," says Edna.


Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), an international organization driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition

According to the World Health Organization, if the maternal intake of folic acid can be increased around the time of conception, the risk of the occurrence of the neurotube defects may be decreased by 60-70%.  For this reason, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), an international organization driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition, has been keen on calls for fortification i.e. adding micro nutrients such as folic acid in foodstuffs.

Felistus Mutambi, fortification coordinator, GAIN


“Women of reproductive age should eat a balanced diet including food rich in folic acid,” says Felistus Mutambi, fortification coordinator (GAIN).





Billy, a data manager at Kijabe hospital is a success story of this medical condition. He finally outgrew the condition after several surgeries and all he can do now is be grateful to God. He advises that for any parent who gives birth to a disabled child whatsoever, the first step is acceptance. Afterwards, all a parent can do is her part and leave the rest to God.

Billy, a former victim of Spinabifida who is now a data manager at Kijabe hospital

Julius Mwiti, Director of Bethany Kids, Africa agrees that there is hope and that awareness needs to be created in all children facilities so people can know that care is available and these children need to be taken to the hospital at the earliest time possible.

Julius Mwiti, Director Bethany Kids, Africa

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