On a mission to raise awareness of noncommunicable diseases
Mr Daniel Kimemia and Mr Joseph Gachanja set off from Nairobi and travelled 1,200km to attend the biennial Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC 2023) in Kigali, Rwanda in one of Amref's solar-powered mobile clinics. The duo were on a mission to raise awareness of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). A team of medics travelled with them to offer free screening services to those attending AHAIC 2023.
The custom-built clinics, launched in 2022 in a partnership between Amref, AstraZeneca and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, are fitted with solar-powered fridges and backup power supply while timely data capture and reporting are facilitated through onsite web-enabled computers.
Amref Flying Doctors (AFD) replenish the mobile clinics whenever they are in hard-to-reach areas to ensure their effective deployment.
“Community health workers and doctors are able to effectively charge their phones and tablets for data collection while working in far-flung last mile areas, we never have to say we are going to look for power because we always have enough.” - Mr Daniel Kimemia
Bringing services direct to people
“This is my first time working from a solar-powered mobile clinic, this is so amazing because it makes work easier compared to the regular ones we usually use plus I am enjoying the air-conditioning on this hot day," says Mr Byingiro Oscar, a Rwandan medic who provided NCD screening services for attendees of the conference.
The mobile clinics were launched in June 2022, when access to and uptake of Covid-19 vaccines in Kenya was slow. Each mobile clinic aims to vaccinate 70-100 people per day reaching up to 1,000 people per day once all 11 mobile clinics are fully operational.
“We are so passionate about strengthening primary healthcare which is why we go to so many counties, this is about taking services to last-mile communities and contributing to the attainment of universal health coverage," says Maureen Cherongis, media relations manager, Amref Health Africa.
"The mobile clinics bring services that are really needed closer [to people]," she added. "They work day and night, apart from being environmentally friendly thanks to two huge solar panels and four rechargeable huge batteries."
Caroline Mbindyo, CEO of Amref Health Innovations, said data showed many people were not going to health facilities for vaccination. “When we asked them why they were not going for Covid-19 vaccinations, it was inconvenient to them because they had lots of things to do like going to the market and would not prioritise particularly after the pandemic was seen to have ‘ reduced’.
"We tried to think of ways we could get these vaccines to communities and this is what we came up with because we were looking at how communities behave; what is their culture, who do they trust?”
The clinics are staffed by trained health workers, including community health worker volunteers from the communities the clinics serve.
“It is powered by solar, has its own tank which means it carries its own water, has a refrigerator which means that it is able to maintain the cold chain for the vaccines it moves around with," she added.
NCDs: The next major health challenge
There is a growing burden of NCDs in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, mobile clinics are being equipped with a portable x-ray, a portable ultrasound to offer screening services for communities.
Ms Mbindyo further points out why this is important: “A lot of people in Africa who suffer from NCDs get diagnosed very late which means that it is more costly for them, for the health system and the health outcomes are likely to be poorer, we are hoping to deploy them in other countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Zanzibar where they can be able to reach communities that are unserved or under-served.”
[Mr Daniel Kimemia and Mr Joseph Gachanja and the Amref mobile clinic in Nairobi, Kenya (c) Leon Lidigu/Nation Media Group; Mr Byingiro Oscar, Rwandan medic (c) Leon Lidigu/Nation Media Group; Caroline Mbindyo, CEO, Amref Health Innovations (c) Leon Lidigu/Nation Media Group]
This article is summarised from reporting by Nation Africa at AHAIC 2023. For full coverage please see the original article here: https://nation.africa/kenya/health/solar-powered-mobile-clinic-s-1-200km-journey-to-kigali-health-forum-4152902