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Summer 2024 newsletter


Kathy Flatoff, Kenya

Kathy Flatoff with two young patient

Left: This young boy, who has sickle cell disease, gets two packets of milk per week to promote protein and calcium intake. Center: Kathy Flatoff with some of the cases of milk she purchases each month for young sickle cell patients. Right: Bananas are this girl’s favorite.

Dear friends and family,

Working in Kitale, Kenya as a Maryknoll lay missioner and nurse, I have seen the effects of poverty on health care. Cancers go untreated, diabetics lack insulin and needed surgeries don’t happen.

One of the hardest things for me to see is the children with sickle cell disease. Through no fault of their own, they were born with this genetic disease that results in red blood cells being sickle-shaped and rigid instead of disc-shaped and flexible. That means they do not flow smoothly through the blood vessels and often block the blood flow to organs, joints, lungs, etc., resulting in various complications and a sickle cell crisis. The pain during a crisis can be excruciating, and these children are often hospitalized for pain control, IV fluids, oxygen and often blood transfusions.

One little boy here was hospitalized 13 times in the last year.

I work at Nyota ya Asubuhi (“The Morning Star”) with the Daughters of Charity, serving 10 villages in a highly populated area with people living in extreme poverty. Most families cannot afford hydroxyurea, the daily medicine for their children with sickle cell disease; it costs approximately 30 cents per pill (less than $10/month).

Living in poverty also means poor nutrition. Proper nutrition is of utmost importance to promote healthy bone marrow, which produces red blood cells. Nutrients like protein and calcium, found in milk, eggs, fish, fruits, fresh vegetables, etc. are often lacking in people’s diet here; it is too expensive to buy. One little girl had not had milk for four months.

At Nyota ya Asubuhi, we are currently helping 24 children with sickle cell disease. These children have a special place in my heart. I am determined that none of them will go without their needed medicine and that all can participate in our weekly nutrition clinic, where we provide them with porridge, packets of milk, fresh green vegetables, fruits, eggs or omena (small, dried fish). My hope is that with these simple steps we can decrease their frequent hospitalizations and help them to live long, healthy lives.

I purchase 20 cases (240 packets) of milk per month in addition to the food mentioned above. The cost per case is approximately $6. That number is growing as more parents with sickle cell children are coming to us asking for help. In addition, I purchase their daily medicine so they will not be going for days or weeks without it.

I met one mother who had purchased two pills for her 4-year-old daughter with sickle cell disease. That was all she could afford until she sold more used clothes and fed her other children. I was happy to purchase a 30-day supply for her, and we are now following her daughter at Nyota ya Asubuhi for nutrition and medication assistance.

Your prayers for those suffering from this disease and for all those living in poverty are very important. Their struggles are more than most of us can imagine. Your financial assistance is also important and very much appreciated. Donations can be made via the instructions below. Thank you for supporting my ministry.

Please consider supporting my mission work at Nyota ya Asubuhi in Kitale, Kenya. with a donation via the button below. 

If you are able, I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Kathy Flatoff
Kathy Flatoff serves as a Maryknoll lay missioner nurse at Nyota ya Asubuhi, a ministry of the Daughters of Charity in Kitale in western Kenya. She previously worked at St. Patrick's Dispensary, a health clinic in a poor, informal settlement in Mombasa, Kenya.