April 27, 2014- A maternity hospital in Isiolo, Kenya may be the first hospital in the world to be named after the Pope John Paul II after he is proclaimed a saint this coming Sunday by Pope Francis. The hospital, which serves rural women and children, has been operating for the past year and is the brainchild of Professor Robert Walley of MaterCare International (MCI).  In 2005, Walley proposed to the then Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Isiolo to name the hospital as a memorial to the late Holy Father John Paul II. The present Bishop Anthony Ireri Mukobo has readily agreed that the hospital be dedicated to the new St. John Paul. READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE HERE>>


Isiolo Administrative District is close to the rift valley in the eastern province of Kenya and is predominantly flat with a low-lying plain. There are four big rivers in the district, the Ewaso Nyiro, Isiolo, Kinna and Bisandani. The river Ewaso Nyiro drains into the Lorian Swamp in the north. During the dry season it dries up and during rainy season it floods the plains. The rivers provide water for human and livestock consumption as well as irrigation in those areas through which they flow. The climate is hot and dry (mean temperature 26-27ºC.) for most of the year, with a short rainy season (October-November) and a long rainy season (March to May). However, rainfall is scarce and unreliable and crop growing is limited. This creates frequent famines and pronounced food insecurity.

 The total district population is 112,364 with Isiolo Central (52,280) having the largest number and a better infrastructure. Generally, human settlement in Isiolo district is concentrated in townships/market centres (Kinna, Merti, Sericho, Oldonyiro, Kulamawe etc.) and along the rivers. Many of the population is nomadic. The Bishop summarized the district as "unique" because of the nomadic population, severity of the climate, poverty, poor roads and communications and isolation. The latter has meant neglect on the part of the authorities and most NGOs.

 Health care is under the Kenyan Ministry of Health (MOH). The overall policy of the MOH is to direct government resources in each administrative district towards providing accessible health services with a balanced approach of disease prevention, health promotion, curative and rehabilitation services. The objectives are to increase coverage and access with an emphasis on community participation; prevent and eradicate disease,; provide adequate and effective diagnostic and rehabilitative services and promote and develop cost-effective health research. To achieve the goals, the MOH will collaborate with non-government organizations and the community to provide new facilities, staff accommodation and training programmes for health care staff.

 The Catholic Diocese of Isiola covers the same area as the Isiola Administrative District. It is sub-divided into six administrative divisions (Isiolo Central, Merti, Garbatulla, Sericho, Oldonyiro and Kinna). More than half of the diocesan population is found in the central division. The diocesan administrative structure includes a Diocesan Development Board. The Board is chaired by the Bishop, Bishop Luigi Locati, and has a Diocesan Development Co-ordinator, technical staff and community and clergy representatives. The Board has an advisory role on the identification, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of diocesan community projects. After finding the MCI website, the project officer for one of the projects, Mr. Tom Ademba, contacted MaterCare International to request help in three areas:

 1. Training nurses, midwives, clinical officers and traditional birth attendants (TBAs),

2. Provision of emergency obstetrical transport

3. Community mobilization.

 As a result, Dr. Walley visited Isiolo in March 2005 for meetings with Bishop Locati, the Diocesan Development Board and health care personnel on possible collaboration. The following project is proposed as a result of his meetings.

 A Health Centre Project for Mothers and Children in Merti, Isiolo District.

Merti is the largest centre outside of Isiolo town. The population is mostly Borana (herdsmen and nomads). It is in the centre of the region about 200 kilometres from Isiolo. There is a church, school and a dispensary with a laboratory and pharmacy. The dispensary is staffed by a nurse, a technician and an assistant. There is a guest house with 12 rooms with shower and washroom facilities, but is in need of repair. Electricity and water are available. The village is connected by radio to the diocesan office. Merti has the better facilities of the area, making it feasible for a project able to help the largest number of people. As in other under-developed areas, the plight of women in childbirth is characterized by very high maternal and infant mortality rates and obstetric fistulae. Severe anaemia, malaria, haemorrhage, obstructed labour and AIDS are the main causes of death. Most births take place in the villages with untrained assistants.

The purpose of the project:
To provide basic level 1 obstetrical services for the rural and nomadic peoples in the Merti area of Isiolo district. The services will include antenatal care, care during normal birth, treatment of the complications of labour and birth, blood transfusion, caesarean birth and laparotomy, and dilation and curettage.


1. To establish a 30 -bed maternal and child health centre, including a 4-bed delivery room, operating room, outpatients department, laboratory and pharmacy, and staff accommodation.

2. To establish three mobile ambulance/clinics to cover the Merti catchment area

3. To train midwives and traditional birth attendants to provide basic maternity services in the districts.

The project is a life-saving tribute to the late Pope John-Paul II. The centre will be funded through MaterCare International, which will provide professional support for the Diocese of Isiolo. A Memo of Understanding will be developed between the parties.