I was very lucky to be able to travel to Kenya this summer with our UK Programmes Manager Melanie Coyne. The purpose of the visit was to see a maternal health project in central Kenya and to meet some of the community members who have benefitted from Amref Health Africa’s work. Our local project team are doing an amazing job and the trip has left me more confident than ever in our sustainable methods to create health and behavior change.
On day one, I travelled to Kasikeu Health Centre in Makueni County to meet with a group of Community Health Volunteers who have been trained by Amref to promote maternal and new-born child health in the surrounding villages.
Makueni County is a large and mostly rural county, about 3 hour’s drive from Nairobi. The landscape varies wildly, from rolling hills, to cactus-filled grass land, to high altitude terraces where you can feel the chill of the wind. Amref is working across the region to bring better maternity services, facilities and training to both the smallest village health centres and larger hospitals.
In Kasikeu, I met a group of Community Health Volunteers who have received training on basic maternal health, the importance of ante-natal care and key milestones in childhood development. Munini, one of 50 volunteers based at the centre told me how she walks for miles up and down the hills of Kasikeu visiting mothers’ houses. She walks so far because she feels her work is important to support women and young children with basic health information and encouraging them to access vital services at the facility. She was just one of the amazing people I met on my trip.
One of the things that struck me while I was in Kenya, was the extent to which our projects are embedded in the local community. Munini, who has been a Community Health Volunteer for seven years, meets regularly with her fellow health volunteers to share knowledge and support. They have even set up local income generating activities including a tuck shop at the health centre selling toiletries and other essentials. It is a model which I saw repeated across Makeuni, and which I know is an important aspect of all of Amref’s work. This really helps to ensure that community level activites continue long after our projects end.
And this was only day one. From there we visited other communities where Amref Health Africa has provided support. Some health centres have been transformed over the course of the project and more and more women are giving birth safely at their local health centre.
I’d love to go back sometime and see how things have changed in Kasikeu. I’m sure Munini will still be helping pregnant mothers in her village, and even more healthy babies will have been born at the centre.