By Caroline SANG
The number of the poor health of so many people in Africa as a whole has been widely known for many years. The World Health Organization has characterized Kenya as facing an acute shortage of health workers. Among the reasons for this shortage are an insufficient number of training programs and institutions. The Universities and training facilities are only producing 40 percent of the needed health workforce, and poor distribution and retention is a serious concern particularly in rural areas including Mandera where the need is greatest. This has resulted to lack of skilled workers to meet the basic standards of care. Islamic Relief’s approach to human resources for health has helped to finance critical gaps in the health workforce needs, while strengthening the health systems. Funding from ECHO has ensured that marked improvements have been made. Despite these improvements, the health of the vast majority remains in jeopardy.
Extending the Workforce
Too often, the health workers at these rural facilities do not have appropriate training or access to continuing medical education. In addition, productivity is at an all-time low. Islamic Relief started capacity building of local staff through an internship program to ensure availability of skilled and experienced personnel from the local community while improving local capacity thereby culminating into sustainable programs. Mentoring and training health workers and community members has proven to transform the lives of people we serve in health and nutrition through community health education sessions.
Ms. Hodhan Bishar is among the ladies Islamic Relief has mentored, trained and given opportunity to give back to her community through internship. Hodhan became an intern with Islamic relief in October, 2014 for a period of three months. She was trained in different aspects of health and nutrition among them is Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition and Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition. After the trainings, On-Job-Trainings were done to enable her experience field work accompanied by a Nutrition Officer. Having been mentored she was supported to continue working with the community under the ECHO project.
As she serves the community, Hodhan is grateful to Islamic Relief as she couldn’t hide her joy. She says,
“Islamic Relief has mentored me and given me opportunity to serve my own people. I have been able to attend various trainings, thanks to Islamic relief, am now able to inform the community on good nutrition practices on infant feeding .I am happy to be the one giving this professional information to mothers who depend on local beliefs to care for their young ones.”
Ms.Hodan has been able to work with the mother support groups to enable behavior change in infant feeding especially complementary feeding and diet diversity among the community members. She has also been able to conduct health education sessions with the communities in the villages she has been able to reach through the support of Islamic Relief.
“Having worked with mothers and other community members, Am happy to hear mothers commend the knowledge they have applied especially exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of age and good complementary feeding. Some mothers confess that their children have grown healthy and they do not need to go to hospital often because of diarrhea and colds, had they known of these practices their children would be better and others say that they despised it because they taught it was a western way of life. Now that they are taught by someone from their own community with same believes they practices and apply in their day to day lives and are appreciating the results.”
Be as it may, the necessary changes that must occur to strengthen health systems and make substantial progress in improving quality health care and most importantly to save lives is increased funding, better management capabilities, and better mind-set behavior.