Kenyan health worker serving pastoralist communities
With a backpack loaded with immunization and other drugs, Susan Lenantari often uses a motorbike to reach about 200 homes in Samburu County. Most parts of the area lack proper road network. But this does not stop her. “Where motorbikes cannot reach due to poor terrain, I have to walk in order to offer health services and referrals to the residents.” During home visits, Lenantari engages community members on health education matters including family planning, nutrition, maternal and child health.
Lenantari is a community owned resource person and a community health volunteer (CHV,) responsible for mobilizing members of each community that is targeted in the camel outreach. Lenantari, 38, is also a mobile community health volunteer. “Unlike other CHVs, I am not confined to one place. I visit upto 200 households in Wamba, Resim, Lodungokwe among other areas in a month,” she says.
“In cases where referrals are needed, we do so. My aim is to ensure that community members have the right health information for them to make sound decisions regarding their health. Lenantari’s work can go up to late in the night. During the camel outreaches in Samburu East, Lenantari stays up late talking to mothers and adolescent girls on matters reproductive health. “Since many of them feel comfortable in their own homes, I have to go where they are. This often happens at night because during the day they are busy with their daily household chores,” she explains.
The CHV has a good rapport with the local administration of all the areas she visits. “I ensure that the local chief and village elder are my first point of contact before I start any medical outreach or mobilization exercise. I am also advantaged by the fact that I speak the local language here.”
During the camel outreaches, Lenantari leads the mobilization exercise which happens a week ahead of the visit by the camel outreach team. “In this case, we started mobilization on August 8, 2019. The camel outreach started in Samburu East and the team hopes to conclude in Isiolo County. The outreach targets communities living at least 20 kilometres from the nearest health facility. “My aim is to ensure that community members have the right health information in order for them to make sound decisions regarding their health. There are some cases where we take the patients to the health facility, especially the defaulters,” she says.
Apua Lenamunyi, the Samburu East Sub County Reproductive health coordinator says that although the uptake o reproductive health commodities in the area has been low, the camel outreach has provided a more convenient avenue for the locals.
About six out of every 10 women in Kenya deliver at a health facility, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. This is an improvement from 43 percent deliveries (in a health facility) in 2008/2009. In Samburu County, more mothers are now giving birth and accessing family planning commodities from health facilities, thanks to community health volunteers (CHV).
Gilbert Wangalwa, Chief of Party, Afya Timiza, says the project has seen a rise in the uptake of family planning commodities by the locals. “We have had to first work on the cultural factors that hinder the locals from seeking health services from skilled healthcare workers. The yield so far in terms of family planning has been very high. Majority of the locals are now aware of the different methods of family planning,” said Wangalwa.