Aga Khan University Hospital Becomes a Friend of Karura Forest

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Professor Michael Chung (right), Chair, Department of Medicine and Dr Dilraj Sokhi (left), Consultant Neurologist with other faculty members and residents from Aga Khan University Hospital during a tree planting exercise at Karura Forest.

Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi has become the first hospital in Kenya to officially join environmental conservation efforts by becoming a Corporate Friend of Karura Forest. This forest is the only urban forest in Nairobi and is managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in conjunction with the Friends of Karura Forest (FKF) Community Forest Association.

The hospital’s membership will contribute towards maintaining Karura Forest as a safe and secure green space for the local community. There are walkways and nature trails throughout the forest, and is surrounded by an electric fence with additional security from G4S guards, Kenya Forest Service rangers and the Association’s security scouts.

In less than ten years, the FKF/KFS partnership together with other Kenyan corporate and private donors have helped fence, secure and transform Karura from the initial dumping site for hijackers and murderers and illegal private developers into a popular local recreation and conservation site. From zero visitors in 2009, the forest is now welcoming an average of 16,000 visitors a month, 70 per cent of whom are Kenyan citizens.

To celebrate the hospitals initiation of the corporate membership with FKF, residents and faculty doctors from the Department of Medicine of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi held a tree-planting team-building exercise at the Karura Forest which was organised and led by Dr Dilraj Singh Sokhi, Section Head, Neurology and Consultant Neurologist at the hospital. Dr Sokhi has been recognised with the “Be Green Award” at his former place of work for previous similar initiatives, and explains why environmental conservation should be a priority for healthcare workers.

“Doctors and other healthcare professionals the world over are used to treating the sick, but a large part of health is primary prevention; that is, addressing the factors that lead to sickness in the first place. Most urban cities suffer from heavy pollution which results in chest problems, headaches, and there is a global move to improve this situation we have found ourselves in”.

“Indeed, during this year’s World Brain Day the World Federation of Neurology is campaigning for cleaner air and less pollution to better the lives of urban dwellers in terms of clearer thinking, better sleep hygiene and less cognitive side effects of the urban smog”.

“Additionally, the healthcare industry is a significantly carbon-heavy sector in any country, and the role of healthcare workers to recognise, mitigate and offset this has been laid out very clearly in the journal The Lancet in 2017, which is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world”.

“As healthcare professionals at Aga Khan University Hospital here in Nairobi, we are showing our commitment to environmental matters by joining hands with FKF. We hope this can set an example that other departments, hospitals and organisations can follow as part of their corporate -social responsibility policy to help build and maintain green spaces around them”, Dr Sokhi further notes.