KISUMU, Kenya —The last time I was in Kisumu, a city on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, it was to work on a story about the country’s most famous grandson, Barack Obama. A man who in the space of a generation jumped from subsistence farming to the presidency of the United States. But Obama is not the only link between the U.S. and this part of western Kenya.
“Kisumu has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s largest nexuses of diseases all in one area,” explained a senior U.S. official.
For that reason a huge amount of U.S. aid is focused here. The region has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 14 percent, twice the national average. If you can think of it, it’s probably endemic: malaria, cholera, typhoid, bilharzia, pneumonia, tuberculosis...
This time I am in Kisumu to see what exactly Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) means on the ground in the country that gets more than any other from the US for health programs; this year alone, the amount measured roughly $650 million.