It was a place where thousands got medical treatment — for conditions both minor and life threatening. Tonight, we have learned the Aid Village Clinic in Africa, funded by Chicago philanthropist Ann Lurie, has closed.
We profiled the clinic last year and the care delivered to the Masai people in rural Kenya. But in a world where healthcare dollars are dwindling, it seems one woman could not continue to fund care for the masses.
In a simple letter that pops up on the Aid Village Clinics website, Ann Lurie delivers the message: she is ending her financial support and as a result the clinic will close. The clinic started out as a dream for Lurie, who realized on safari in Africa, sick children had nowhere to go for care. Soon a mobile trailer grew into this sophisticated hospital, pharmacy, doctor’s office and lab — funded solely by Ann Lurie to the tune of 8 million dollars a year.
Ann was committed all the while hoping the clinic would become self sustaining, that other donors would join her. She explained her passion in an interview from the clinic in 2011.
Ann Lurie: “If you are not healthy you can’t work, you can’t go to school, you can’t take care of your children. I think healthcare is just the basis of the existence of any society, and I think it will be the basis of this country moving forward.”
Locals who came to work at the clinic had hope for the future, as did patients who once saw babies die after being born in mud huts. Now, they were surviving.
Jackson Sakimba, clinic manager: “I am proud of that I am seeing my people getting help.”
And the people were happy — coming by the hundreds every day, more and more to care for. I spoke with Ann Lurie today who admitted she was sick about the clinic closing saying: “We accomplished a great deal, but the escalating costs — primarily due to patient satisfaction and increasing demand — became prohibitive for one person (with a little help from others), to bear.”
While in Africa clinic manager Jackson Sakimba hinted to his fears the burden would become too great.
Jackson Sakimba: “The big question is, how long will it last? And if it doesn’t last, if Ann runs out of funds, where will they get any assistance?”
That is what kept Ann Lurie going for so long pouring money into Africa — all while writing a 100 million dollar check to fund construction of the new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where she continues to donate. There was no hint of shuddering Aid Village Clinics just 12 months ago — only passion to continue the mission of care with plans to build a new maternity ward.
Ann Lurie: “One of the primary things on my agenda is that we have to sustain this. We can’t be here and do this and then disappear.”
Ann told me today she hopes the improved government institutions in Kenya as well as other programs including the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID will pick up where she has left a lasting legacy.