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ReachOut Blog

By Martha Awino- PR and Communications

Since the advent of the COVID-19, life-saving health care programs in many African countries have been disrupted. In Kenya, the Ministry of Health reported a decline in key health indicators in immunization, family planning, health facility childbirth deliveries, and nutrition services. This is attributed to poor health-seeking behavior fuelled by the fear of contracting COVID-19 and the government directive of stay at home. Isiolo is one of the counties that reported an upsurge in COVID-19 cases which crippled the health care systems largely affecting livelihoods.

To improve access to, and utilization of health services in humanitarian settings by reducing direct and indirect financial barriers, Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) in partnership with the British Red Cross implemented a 6-month project in Isiolo county aimed at strengthening health systems and improving health indicators. Through the support of the Ministry of Health in Isiolo County, volunteers took the lead in reaching communities in Isiolo County with timely, factual, and consistent information on COVID-19 through the local radio stations. They engaged local communities with real-time factual information on coronavirus to counter common local myths, as well as address emerging issues from the pandemic and the current efforts of vaccination intended to reach approximately 200,000 community members.

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting access to and proper functioning of healthcare services, the project enabled 450 pregnant women and lactating mothers in Garbatula sub-county, in Isiolo to access health care facilities through the provision of cash transfers to cover transport to the far distances and pay for critical health services and drugs. The cash transfers were accompanied by sensitization on COVID-19 infection prevention and control as well as dispelling myths and misconceptions about the pandemic.

35-year-old Safia Jarso is among expectant and lactating mothers who benefitted from the health system strengthening project. Being a mother of seven with no means to earn an income, restriction of movements made her household lack food and income to take care of their basic needs, most importantly healthcare services. Safia was registered for five-month cash transfer support by the KCRS. Without the support, she would have missed this essential health service due to lack of money and long distance to the health facility coupled with the fear of contracting Coronavirus.

“Since the start of COVID-19, I avoided walking to the health facility due to the fear of interacting with community members who could have been infected with the COVID-19. At that time, I was 5 months pregnant. Not going to the hospital resulted in inadequate prenatal care. However, receiving Ksh,2000 monthly for five months from Kenya Red Cross enabled me to pay for transport to the health facility to attend my prenatal and postnatal care clinic sessions”, said Safia.

 

According to the WHO working paper considering cash transfer programming for Health in humanitarian contexts, cash and voucher assistance can be used to improve access to, and utilisation of, health services in humanitarian settings by reducing direct and indirect financial barriers and or by incentivising the use of preventive services. Health systems strengthening interventions funded by British Red Cross and supported by the Ministry of Health and County Government has seen Isiolo County record an increase in antenatal and postnatal attendance, immunizations, and hospital deliveries. 450 pregnant women and lactating mothers in Garbatula sub-county, in Isiolo can now access health care facilities through the provision of cash transfers to cover transport to the far distances and pay for critical health services and drugs.

 

Strengthening health systems interventions by the Ministry of Health and County Government has seen Isiolo County record an increase in antenatal and postnatal attendance, immunizations, and hospital deliveries. The key project achievements include training of: 12 Mental Health and Psychosocial Support service providers on COVID-19 and Psychological First Aid, 22 Kenya Red Cross volunteers and CHVs on Integrated COVID-19 management, 65 school representatives on COVID-19 screening, detection measures, and Home-Based Isolation and Care, and 120 Frontline workers (Health care workers, teachers, and police) on COVID-19 Vaccine and IPC measures. A total of 50-250 litres of handwash and 151-50 litres hand washing facilities were delivered to over 35 schools. KCRS Project Officer Dickson Mutuku confirms the cash transfers intervention was complemented by sensitization on COVID-19 infection prevention and control as well as dispelling myths around the pandemic. This has empowered communities with the correct information. Improved access to more and quality healthcare is considered life-saving.

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