WC20 EYE CAMP_05_120724


Narrapu – A Samburu word for improvement or uplifting.

Project Narrapu represents a holistic and innovative approach to a troubled and remote area of Kenya.

Its aim is to transform the lives of its community in the areas of;

Security – Of property, livelihood, environment and wildlife.

Education – A network of nomadic schools being a highly effective education system for tribal children.

Prosperity – With improved access to clean water for people, livestock and wildlife.

Health – Through better access to health services, and support for health crises and epidemics.

There are many programs in operation by the Trust under the umbrella of Project Narrapu, some are in development and others are stretching successfully into their second or third decades.

This week we’re going to begin a regular look at these programs, beginning with one of our oldest and most life changing, The Trachoma Eradication Program, initiated to combat a debilitating and easily preventable eye infection called Trachoma.

“Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, affecting an estimated 150 million people, many of them children. About 5.5 million people are blind or at risk of blindness as a consequence of Trachoma.” The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.)


In November 2003 the Trust conducted a Trachoma prevalence survey in Muridjo area of the Waso Ngiro Corridor. From a target of more than 1,800 people over 50% had Trachoma, more than constituting a serious public health problem by W.H.O. advisory standards.

A chronic eye infection, the repeated re-infection of trachoma causes scarring under the eyelids. This scarring eventually causes the eyelid to turn in on itself and rub against the front of the eye. This is extremely painful and eventually results in blindness.

Households affected by trachoma typically have unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, with transmission typically caused by physical contact with the infected eye.

Once endemic in Europe and North America, it has been virtually eliminated by increased standards of hygiene and sanitation. The W.H.O recommends a S.A.F.E strategy of trachoma prevention which includes Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, and Environmental improvement.

A 30 minute operation is all it takes to correct the eyelid, a process without which would cause blindness. We do this with our mobile eye units, our eye team takes the surgery to the people. Culturally the Samburu never take time to ‘look after themselves’ as their livestock and children are always priority.

The people live to the rhythm of their environment so to go to a hospital is an unnatural unknown. When an eye camp first arrives in an area the elders will watch what we are doing and how we treat the people. Once the first few brave patients have received their ops successfully everyone will flood to the tent.

Our reputation and care for the people is everything. Each and every patient is monitored with our eye moranis visiting them months after the operation to ensure they are happy. The Trust has now performed 8 eye camps and 530 trachoma operations.


To understand a little of what a Trust Eye Surgery Camp is like can be found in the camp diaries for 2011;

110 Trachoma operations and 15 cataracts preventing 94 people from going blind.

The days are hot and the hours are long, and without the knowledge, experience and commitment of the small but effective Samburu Trust team, the task would be impossible.

Months of planning precedes our first steps on the ground. Surveying, government permissions, costing and preparing equipment and drugs. Simultaneously 300km north of Nairobi a second team works on the ground. This is the most critical part of the process, with no roads, power or telecommunications this job can only be done by the Samburu themselves.


By visiting the local soko our Laritaik (ecosystem monitors) will soon know where the community is living and where there is water. This gives us a location for our camps; sleeping and surgical. Water is critical, there is only space for the essentials; people, medical equipment, tents and food. We cannot carry water so we follow the traditional methods and dig for it!

4. Girl washing her face at a Trust Nomad School – teaching children to wash their faces is critical in preventing trachoma.

Once the two camps are set up the team goes straight to work. One team leaves at five, arriving in the manyattas at sunrise they walk from homestead to homestead drinking tea and milk with each family, and explaining the operation, reassuring people and gaining their trust.

Without this close contact with each and every person there is no way we could succeed. The majority of our team are local Samburu, so familiar faces and stories help scared patients gain the courage to come to our tent.


This area, Sananguri, is interesting. In recent years the Samburu have been fighting with the Pokot tribe for land and water. In 2009 over 30 people were killed in a battle, a day that will never be forgotten. Today after a year of peace the Samburu elders take us to a Pokot homestead to help their new friends and neighbours too.

6. Trust red eye patches in action

For the Samburu who live entirely in such a challenging environment, whose prowess lies in their symbiosis with the bush, blindness can realistically mean death.


It is our goal that with further eye camps, more nomadic education schools, and greater access to responsible and sustainable water that we can eradicate this destructive disease from the community for good.

If you would like more information about our blindness prevention program please contact us at info@samburutrust.org.

8. trachoma-free kids at a Trust Nomad School



This article is a Samburu Trust collaboration. Please click here for more information.

This Chapter by Sacha Kenyon, Julia Francombe and Moses Lerusion.

All Images and text ©2012 Samburu Trust. All rights reserved.

Image Credits

1,3,5,6,7: M. Coyle
2: J. Francombe
4,8: S. Kenyon

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