Bridging the Path to Wellness through Cash Assistance

As I step into Zainab’s hut, I am immediately captivated by the pensive look on her face as she breastfeeds her youngest child. With Arfi, her daughter, playfully tugging at the edge of her headscarf on the right, and Abdifatah, Arfi’s twin, finding comfort nestled under her left arm, Zainab’s love and dedication to her family are unmistakable. Despite the challenges she faces, her warm smile radiates a genuine sense of hospitality, inviting me to join her.

Arfi smiles as her mother Zainab places a hand on her shoulder while breastfeeding her youngest of ten children Photo: Nariman Naufal/Kenya Red Cross

Zainab Mohamed Dubow, a 32-year-old mother of ten from Hadun Village, Garissa, has faced numerous challenges keeping her 4-year-old daughter, Arfi healthy. Zainab is one of the beneficiaries of the Cash for Health project implemented by the Kenya Red Cross with funding from the Norwegian Red Cross Society. 

Prior to being enrolled on the project, Zainab’s daughter Arfi, like many children her age in this village, was severely malnourished. To get her treated, Zainab had to make arduous journeys lasting 2 to 3 hours to reach the nearest healthcare facility, often leaving her and Arfi with painful blisters. To shield themselves from the harsh sun, they would set out before dawn and wait until dusk to make the trek back home. This gruelling routine was Zainab’s desperate attempt to ensure Arfi received the medical care she needed.

Kiurix Nyandieka screens a jovial Arfi using the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) Tape at the Benane Health Centre. Photo: Nariman Naufal/Kenya Red Cross

Since joining the Cash for Health project, Zainab’s life has taken a positive turn. Regular access to medical care has allowed Arfi’s health to gradually improve. No longer burdened by exhausting treks, Zainab can focus on nurturing her daughter’s well-being. The cash assistance has alleviated financial strains, enabling Zainab to pay for transport to and from the Benane Health Centre, purchase essential medications and meet other healthcare-related expenses as well as food. Zainab has found hope, witnessing her daughter’s Z-Score steadily improve, going from having Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) to Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and slowly getting better.

At the Benane Health Centre, Public Health Officer Kiurix Nyandieka sheds light on the changes she has seen in health-seeking behaviour amongst the community members since the Cash for Health project began at the tail end of 2022.

“Before the project took off, the community did not prioritize seeking healthcare at the center, as the challenges posed by the drought demanded their immediate attention, giving their health a back seat. However, when a much-needed injection of funds was introduced, we witnessed a remarkable surge in women visiting the facility, driven by a newfound understanding of the significance of screenings for their children, antenatal care (ANC), postnatal care (PNC) visits, and a range of services previously unknown to them. It is truly inspiring to see how empowerment and access to resources can ignite a transformative change in a community’s health-seeking behavior.”

Kiurix Nyandieka – Public Health Officer, Benane Health Centre

Five years ago in Danyere, Adan Omar, was caught in a crossfire of inter-communal skirmishes. He lost his right eye after a stray stone hit his head, causing irreparable damage to it. The eye had to be surgically removed. The loss of his livestock due to drought further compounded his hardships, leaving him without the means to afford regular check-ups. His remaining eye, plagued by fading vision, can only discern blurred figures. Adan’s dire circumstances left him reliant on his wife who barely gets by.

Adan shows us the medication that he has been able to purchase after receiving cash assistance through the Cash for Health project. Photo: Nariman Naufal/Kenya Red Cross

The Cash for Health project has been a lifeline for Adan and his family. The financial assistance provided through the project enables him to purchase vital medications that would otherwise be beyond his reach. Additionally, Adan uses cash assistance to buy milk and nourishing goat bone broth, his preferred form of sustenance. Grateful for the initiative, he acknowledges the immense impact that the Cash for Health project has had on his well-being and quality of life.

Scaling up efforts

The Kenya Red Cross and the Norwegian Red Cross have partnered to help communities break barriers to seeking health and combat the alarming levels of malnutrition among children in the drought-affected regions of Garissa and Marsabit Counties. Recognizing the pressing need to address low ANC, PNC and malnutrition coverage, the Cash for Health project introduces cash assistance as a solution and motivation for community members to access these essential healthcare services.

Focus group discussion with community health volunteers at Mudey Village in Garissa. Photo: Nariman Naufal/Kenya Red Cross

Transportation limitations, cultural obstacles, and financial constraints have hindered the ability of these vulnerable women to seek the care they urgently require. However, the six-month project has already made significant strides in making a positive impact on over 4,300 community members, strengthening their health-seeking behaviour and educating them on the health services available to them.

Each month, these community members receive a tranche of KES 4,000, providing them with vital financial assistance to alleviate the burden of healthcare expenses and cater for the transportation to reach health centres which in many cases are not less than 8km away. This crucial lifeline enables pregnant and lactating mothers to secure the care they need to safeguard their well-being and that of their children. Additionally, the project extends its reach to include malnourished children under the age of five and the elderly, recognizing their vulnerability in the face of limited resources and challenging circumstances.

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Kelvin Njenga Digital Transformation Officer

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The Reach Out Blog is a curated collection of inspiring humanitarian stories, showcasing the impactful interventions we have made within communities in Kenya and the individuals who have benefited from the aid initiatives of Kenya Red Cross and Partners

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