Field Call from Kenya with Dr. Meshack Ndirangu
On March 8, 2012, International Women’s Day, AMREF USA held a conference call with Executive Director Lisa Meadowcroft and Deputy Country Director for AMREF Kenya, Dr. Meshack Ndirangu. They provided AMREF USA supporters with an update on the effects of the drought and on our current work in Kenya. The call focused mainly on two USAID-supported initiatives of AMREF’s – the recently completed Busia Child Survival Project and an APHIAplus program, started in 2011 in the Great Rift Valley region of Kenya.
Dr. Ndirangu’s update on AMREF Kenya’s drought response was as follows: Since the middle of last year, we have been supporting 10 affected counties within Kenya alone – in addition to our ongoing, long-term health development work in the country. To date, 1.7 million people have benefited from nutritional supplements, water and increased access to medical services provided by AMREF. We expect to reach an additional 1.2 million people in 2012.
He then discussed the extraordinary impact the US-funded Busia Project had – and is continuing to have – on this community in Western Kenya. Before the start of the project, the infant and child mortality rate in the district was alarmingly high; access to quality health services was poor; and there was little support for HIV/AIDS counseling. The statistics speak for themselves:
- The percentage of women delivering in health facilities increased from 20% to 53%;
- Before, half of pregnant women were counseled for HIV; now more than 85% seek counseling;
- Mothers who exclusively breastfed after birth increased from 11% to 53%.
In their reports, Ms. Meadowcroft and Dr. Ndirangu spoke at length about how both Busia and APHIAplus epitomize what AMREF does so well – working with both the formal health system and communities to strengthen health services and systems. In Busia, hospital staff received technical training, and more than 900 community health workers were trained - volunteers who learn a variety of skills – from identifying birthing complications to nutritional counseling.
With programs like these, AMREF is able to help equip a community with the tools it needs to move forward independently and sustainably – escaping poverty through better health .