Florence Weke-sa talking and smiling with a colleague, plus copy: an advocate for the life of every child

Women rarely hold office in Kenya. Florence Weke-sa is an exception. The only female councilor on the Kimilili Municipal Council, she has become a voice for the mothers of her ward and for their children. Wrapped in her customary bright colors, Florence stands out in a crowd—and so does her message: “We need to care for our children.”

The statistics say diarrhea kills 5,000 children around the world every day. In Kenya, diarrhea is the third leading cause of death among children under five. The burden is particularly serious in Bungoma district, a poor and mostly rural area. It is Florence’s duty as a councilor to be present at every funeral in the district. Too often, those funerals are direct evidence of how quickly and how often diarrhea kills the very young.

Their message affected Florence as a leader and a mother: she vividly remembers a long week almost 20 years ago spent nursing her son through a nearly fatal episode. She speaks eloquently about the need to help women control diarrheal disease: “I tell women that they are equally important, something they have never known.”

Last year, Florence took part in a pilot project run by PATH, joining a workshop that taught practical methods to reduce disease: breastfeeding, use of oral rehydration solution, zinc treatment, proper hygiene. The workshop was part of a new, community-based approach to diarrheal disease control in the region and a proving ground for techniques that will be integrated into Kenya’s National Diarrheal Disease Control Framework. The model will soon be translated to Vietnam as well.

Learning how to respond when diarrhea breaks out in a village—how to slow its spread from household to household, how to keep children hydrated, the importance of clean water—gave her a fresh set of tools. For Florence, who believes a councilor’s job is to lead by example, “The seminar opened up so much.”

Armed with information, she can provide immediate aid to families who come to her because a child is violently ill. And she travels every week to churches, schools, and health clinics, spreading awareness among parents and community leaders. She’s creating a safety net for her community’s children. Now, she says, “Diarrhea is still here—but it is no longer killing.”


AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Program

Ministry of Health, Kenya

Photo: PATH/Janie Hayes.

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“Diarrhea is still here—but it is no longer killing.”