The Awkwardly Truthful AMREF Billboards


I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but when I saw the billboards recently erected by AMREF in Nairobi , I did a double-take.

Duh!! No, wait, it's in Kisumu.

The two I have seen are erected along Waiyaki Way and Moi Avenue. According to these billboards, the Flying Doctor Service is your only hope in case of a relative’s heart attack or premature labour. That does not ring true in Nairobi, and the billboards do not make sense until you read the fine print at the top. Turns out the heart attack occurred in Kisumu, and the premature labour was  in Mogori.

So, the point is made that health care in Migori and Kisumu is not up to snuff. There is nothing wrong in saying that, it’s the reality of this country. Why then are ‘Kisumu’ and ‘Migori’ rendered in fine print on the billboard? Maybe the Flying Doctors understand that the good people of Kisumu and Migori do not appreciate their soiled hospital linen being disinfected in public, soiled though it may be. I have not traveled there recently, but I am almost certain there are no billboards in Kisumu and Migori today reminding residents that the Flying Doctors are the only hope they’ve got. But that message must get out somehow, and these billboards seem to be the politically correct workaround AMREF has chosen.

Contrast this craven advertising with the proud portrayal of Kisumu City in a popular DHL newspaper ad. ‘A contract leaves Kisumu City and hours later, touches down in New York’, goes the tag-line. When you put the two ads together, you get a forward – thinking, globally connected Great Lakes city doubling as a healthcare backwater. Which ad portrays the real Kisumu? If the AMREF people think theirs does, they are being very tentative about it.


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