Many African countries have made progress in improving the health of people over the past decades. However, there are still wide gaps between and within countries in terms of access to primary health care and quality of services. There is a concern on maternal and neonatal health indicators which have not shown much progress in Africa. Over 99% of Maternal Deaths occur in developing countries with a majority occurring in Africa (WHO). According to UNICEF, 5.9 million Children die every year before their 5th Birthday. Further, there is the strain on African health systems imposed by the high burden of life-threatening communicable diseases coupled with increasing rates of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and coronary heart disease. The root cause of the state of these indicators can be attributed to deterrents at the lowest level of healthcare, that is, the community level. Addressing these challenges requires that governments support robust community health programmes that demonstrate benefits to broader health systems, such as promoting prevention measures, addressing vulnerability drivers and ensuring community leadership and engagement for a safer living environment at the local level. Improving universal access to quality healthcare, at all levels, has been top on the agenda of bilateral engagements between states in Africa and the donor community.
The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) was held from 27th to 28th August 2016 in Nairobi. In a side event organised in line with Pillar 2 of the priority area of TICAD VI: “Promoting resilient health systems for quality of life,” the focus was on strengthening community-based health strategies. The African Union member states present, Ministry of Health representatives from Kenya and Japan, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement deliberated on the issue from different perspectives and levels, including responses in times of conflict, better integration into national health systems, timely sharing of information on epidemics, and effective partnerships, in order to strengthen health systems in Africa.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Nicholas Muraguri, expressed his appreciation that more focus is being put on addressing health needs at community level. Kenya was among the first countries to identify the role of community in improving healthcare. A number of successful initiatives have been carried out in the country by community health workers including, distribution of mosquito nets, immunisation campaigns, distribution of water treatment tablets, organising communities to identify needs and demand for results, management of common health conditions where healthcare workers are few just to mention a few. Community health workers have also supported the Ministry identify outbreaks of diseases as seen in Mandera County where a community healthcare worker recently identified and reported the first case of Chikungunya Virus which enabled the health authorities respond in a timely manner.
The GIZ Health Sector Programme which supports national and selected county governments improve access to and quality of health care with an emphasis on maternal and neonatal health, will continue to partner with the government of Kenya to sustainably strengthen community health systems to improve health outcomes for the Kenyan people. The GIZ recognises that strengthening the community health system is necessary in early identification, followup, response and referral of cases through networks of community health and primary health care workers with proven positive impacts on maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality2016-10-03
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