Next month the world will mark three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines have proven our best defence against the spread of the virus but distribution of, and access to, vaccines has been deeply inequitable.(i)
At the end of 2022, just 44.9% of the African continent’s population was fully vaccinated(ii), against a global average of 69%.(iii) In Kenya, the coverage is only 35%.(iv)
Increasing vaccination coverage is vital to reduce the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on communities and health systems in Kenya. It will also support the efforts to tackle the rapidly rising tide of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya. NCDs are chronic, often life-long health conditions including asthma, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.(v)
The dual front: COVID-19 and NCDs
Globally, every two seconds a person dies from an NCD.(vi) Four in five of these people are in low and middle-income countries.(vii) Prior to the pandemic in Kenya, estimates show that NCDs caused 27% of all deaths and 50% of all hospital admissions(viii), and COVID-19 deaths data also shows that 50% of deaths in Kenya were of people living with an NCD.(ix) The COVID-19 pandemic caused a disruption in NCD care services, meaning people could not easily access screening, diagnosis and treatment.
This means that a lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines and services and the increasing burden of NCDs on local health systems are having a significant impact on the health of communities in Kenya.
Closing the gap with vaccines, screenings and information
Amref is partnering with Croda Foundation to reach ‘last-mile’ communities in Kenya with COVID-19 vaccination and NCD screening, diagnosis and treatment services. These are communities located in remote and rural areas, which traditionally struggle to access basic health services due to lack of facilities and trained health workers.
Three mobile clinics are being mobilised and equipped to provide communities in three counties with COVID-19 vaccination services, as well as screening, diagnosis, and treatment for NCDs. Additionally, the programme will train community health workers (CHWs) on screening, diagnosis and care for NCDs including asthma, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
The programme aims to reach 30,000 people with COVID-19 vaccination services, and 50,000 people with NCD screening, diagnosis and care.
The programme also aims to train 1,000 Community Health Workers on NCDs such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension; the CHWs will conduct community outreach activities through the mobile clinics to increase community knowledge on reducing risks of developing NCDs.
"Croda Foundation is delighted to continue our partnership with Amref to deliver last mile health provision to rural communities. The mobile vaccine units are an innovative solution to overcome some of the barriers these communities face in accessing healthcare. The Foundation previously supported the stop the spread of COVID-19 in Uganda – we have seen first-hand the importance of Amref’s work and the difference they are making to improve people’s lives."
Rommel Moseley, Executive Director at Croda Foundation
“When the first cases of COVID-19 were detected on the African continent, Amref worked with African governments and took a leading role in national efforts to stop the spread. This new programme continues the work to increase vaccination coverage while also expanding to tackle another rising health challenge—non-communicable diseases. Accessible and affordable health services are critical in the effective management of these conditions. We’re pleased to expand our work with Croda Foundation with this new mobile clinic programme, to ensure that people in rural communities have access to health services and to help create sustainable change in rural health infrastructure.”
Dr. Aneesa Ahmed, Programme Manager, Amref Heath Africa UK
[v] In a WHO Rapid Assessment, 75% of countries reported an interruption of NCD-related health services during the COVID-19 response.
[vi] WHO Invisible numbers: the true extent of non-communicable diseases and what to do about them, September 2022
[viii] Ministry of Health, Kenya
[ix] Ministry of Health, Kenya