What issue are you trying to solve?
Lamu is one of Kenya’s worst-performing counties in terms of health and education. Our target communities are among the country’s most marginalized, due to geographic isolation, poverty, poor infrastructure, a lack of services and ongoing insecurity. This prevents them from full social, economic and political participation. In Lamu East, youths are particularly vulnerable as few schools are fully functional, unsafe sex, alcohol and drug abuse are common and radicalisation is a threat. There is an urgent need for youths to be engaged around issues of health and well-being. Public participation is anchored in various provisions of Kenya’s constitution but its implementation varies between counties. In such a fragmented space, it is hard for marginalized communities such as rural, indigenous women to engage in development processes and hold their leaders accountable for the state of health service delivery in their communities.
What is your approach to change this undesired situation?
Safari Doctors is the only CBO operating consistently in Lamu East and has reached over 9,000 people through its mobile clinics. Our model of mobile health service delivery by boat and road takes an innovative One Health approach (which recognizes that the health of people is connected to that of animals and the environment) in order to improve public health outcomes. Our Safari Vet program supports this by caring for hundreds of animals and raising awareness about One Health. Our youth Health Ambassadors program engages dozens of vulnerable young men and women who receive basic health education and training, to become health leaders in their communities- the program offers a support system through peer-to-peer mentorship. Safari Doctors also operates a civic education program, to galvanize the voices of indigenous women and build their capacity to engage in County health budget processes and hold local leaders accountable for health service delivery.
What is the potential impact of your initiative?
Our innovative and inclusive model is community-led, which we believe increases its impact and sustainability. With Universal Health Coverage being one of Kenya’s key pillars of development, we believe indigenous, marginalized voices must be a primary component of developing mechanisms that include communities on the fringes of society. Our potential impact is one where the entire population of Lamu East (approximately 30,000 people) has consistent access to quality primary health services, with access to a mobile, floating clinic in the archipelago for urgent medical cases. We believe youths must be central to improving the health of our target communities and envisage our Health Ambassadors program engaging hundred more young men and women who will work together to help achieve this. Our Indigenous Voices program has the potential to amplify indigenous women’s voices to influence budget making and promote transparency and accountability in Lamu’s health service delivery.