April 27, 2011 –
by Jason Straziuso
The clinic’s paperwork carried a common medical symbol – a snake coiling around a wooden rod. But that simple insignia sparked a rumor in Nairobi’s largest slum: The U.S.-funded clinic was a center for snake worshipping.
For the poor residents of Kibera, who have little exposure to the medical community, that conclusion was logical. Africans sometimes turn to traditional healers or witch doctors.
But the false rumor was just a part of a puzzle for the clinic: If the clinic is high quality, close by and nearly free, why weren’t more slum residents using it?
Students from one of America’s most exclusive universities were called in to find out, as part of their class aimed at increasing efficiencies of health facilities in Third World countries. They soon found themselves in a crowded and fetid slum, one of the poorest in the world.