Project #9865

Transform health in a Kenyan slum with just $26

by Carolina for Kibera, Inc.
Rosemary, left, during a household visit.
Rosemary, left, during a household visit.

In Kibera, home-births or births facilitated by Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs)—more popularly known as midwives—are quite common. But TBAs in Kibera are learning to embrace change. TBAs customarily help women deliver in their homes, a process which is contrary to the recommendation issued by the Kenyan Ministry of Health that all women should deliver in health facilities. Delivering in a hospital or clinic makes it easier to quickly identify, treat, and resolve any emergencies or danger signs.

Through partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities, Carolina for Kibera has made it our mission to extend accessible and accurate health information and services throughout Kibera, focusing particularly on improving maternal and child health. Good practices regarding childbirth are a salient and pertinent topic. To meet its objective of reduction of maternal and infant deaths due to preventable causes during and after pregnancy, the project engaged 14 TBAs to help promote hospital deliveries. The project also trained TBAs to be able to notice danger signs that could be fatal for the mother or baby, and to seek immediate action to correct those.

Rosemary, a TBA, is one such volunteer. “I encourage women to go to hospitals for delivery,” Rosemary says about her new role. She leads a Care Group of about 10 women, discussing good health practices for them and their children. “Nowadays I never conduct home deliveries,” adds Rosemary. “When a woman sends for me and asks me to help her deliver, I first ask her to prepare all birthing equipment required for safe delivery. Then I tell her that we must seek a health facility, and I also help her secure means to get there. I talk with the women about making birth plans, and preparing themselves adequately for delivery,” she adds. “And I am happy to see that the women appreciate what we do. And they heed our advice when we meet.”

In addition to facilitating group meetings, Rosemary conducts regular individual household follow-up appointments for both pregnant women and women who have delivered. “During these visits, I help check on the baby’s and mother’s health for any signs that may require attention and also offer advice.” To date, Rosemary has made it possible for 12 women to access information regularly on pregnancy-related issues.

Bentado sits with Pauline & Ismael in their home.
Bentado sits with Pauline & Ismael in their home.

In a community where health misinformation is common, spreading the truth requires a lot of quick thinking and problem solving. Take, for instance, a recent encounter that Community Health Volunteer, Bentado, ran into when conducting a follow-up visit to the home of baby Ismael. Ismael was discharged from the hospital where he was born before getting a vital vaccine to prevent tuberculosis. Usually the vaccine is only given on particular days of the week, and hospital staff encouraged Pauline, Ismael’s mother, to return on a day the vaccine was being distributed. However, that wasn’t so easy for Pauline, who believes for religious reasons that no one should see her baby until he is one month old. Waiting a month would make it too late for the vaccine to be effective.

Upon learning that the baby had not gotten the vaccine, Bentado had to think fast to come up with a solution. So she devised a plan: swaddle the baby completely, only leaving space for the baby to breathe, and walk with Pauline to the Tabitha Medical Clinic to administer the vaccine. Bentado had also confirmed ahead of time that they would be attended to immediately upon arrival. With this plan, Ismael got the important vaccine!

Like Pauline, many Kiberan women face barriers to getting their children healthcare. Some of them, like the one Pauline faced with Ismael, are traditional or religious in nature. Others are more social. CHVs like Bentado are working hard with CFK to provide accessible, accurate, and friendly service to women like Pauline. One such service is through Care Groups, small groups of women who meet once a week to talk about their health and their children’s health. Pauline is enrolled in a Care Group and has received much more knowledge than she anticipated. She was surprised to discuss a wide range of topics, including her own reproductive health, family planning methods, and how ante-natal doctor visits can bolster the health of the mother as well as that of the child.

Those lessons are what keep Bentado working as a Community Health Volunteer. “Teaching the community how to improve health and prevent illness by adopting healthy practices has been the best part of being a CHV,” she explains, “especially when you see a change in their behaviors. This really motivates us to do more.” She and her colleagues wouldn’t have it any other way. “The community is indeed in charge of their own health and development. We are in fact actively involved in taking care of our own health needs.”

Many of us are familiar with what an ultrasound looks like, but in Kibera, many women are not. Many are also not aware of how vital they are to maternal health, believing instead that only women with ample resources can get ultrasounds and that they aren't absolutely necessary. In reality, ultrasounds are incredibly important.

In Kibera, this is especially true. Maternal death is higher in Kibera than many parts of Nairobi and Kenya more broadly. Without access to proper ante-natal care at the early stages of pregnancy, pregnant Kiberan women are at higher risk for miscarriage, losing babies during delivery, or even losing their own lives because of complications. In response to this need, Carolina for Kibera and the Tabitha Medical Clinic are pleased to unveil a new facet of our mission to provide improved healthcare for women of childbearing age. The Tabitha Medical Clinic now houses the first ever ultrasound machine in Kibera!

Having an ultrasound machine within Kibera will address many problems associated with access to quality care for Kiberan women. “Because it’s the first,” comments Mark Muasa, Head of CFK’s Health Department, “it’s going to have a very large impact for women’s health in Kibera.” The machine will help detect abnormal infections or growths that could threaten the life of the mother or the baby. Knowing things about the baby’s sex will also help the family prepare materially and financially, but also psychologically.

In the past, the Tabitha Medical Clinic staff referred women to outside hospitals and clinics for ultrasounds. Due to a combination of several factors—including time, distance, and overall level of trust—women would neglect to attend appointments that were costlier and farther away. “I think it’s an issue of equity,” explains Mark. “We want to give people the same experience they’ll get in any other private facility. We are trying to close the gaps so women can have access to quality healthcare.

In the short time since the Tabitha Medical Clinic staff unveiled the machine, at least 10 women a day have lined up for a visit. That’s 10 women a day who are safer and healthier as they prepare to have children, who will grow up safer and healthier as well. We are very excited to provide this service for Kiberan women!

Carolina for Kibera’s data collection methods are getting an upgrade! Earlier this week, 100 new Google Nexus 7 tablets arrived at CFK’s U.S. office in Chapel Hill. The donation came by way of Inveneo, a technology non-profit that seeks to deliver technological tools to people who need them most in the developing world. CFK shares their belief that technological innovation can help connect people with life-changing services across many areas, including health, education, and entrepreneurship.

So what could we possibly do with 100 sleek, shiny new tablets? These tablets will be used by Community Health Volunteers to more accurately collect health data from thousands of families in Kibera! With more standardized and thorough data, CFK can better assess the community’s need for health services and outreach. A more complete picture of what the community needs will also help us evaluate the success of existing programs and pinpoint areas of improvement.

Thank you, Inveneo! With this donation, you’ve certainly advanced your mission and ours—to help people lead healthy, safe, and self-sufficient lives.

For the past 2 years, Carolina for Kibera has partnered with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) on a large-scale project to bring clean water straight to Kiberan families. The campaign, conducted by Community Health Workers (CHWs), reached thousands of people throughout Kibera and brought 3,235 easy-to-use hand-washing stations right to Kiberan households. In the process, CHWs conducted health outreach through door-to-door screenings, bringing basic health information and services to over 10,000 families. In short, through our collaboration with RMHC, CFK created great impact by keeping families, especially families with children under 5 years old, healthy and knowledgeable about health resources in their community.

We are extremely grateful for RMHC’s support, and incredibly pleased to announce that our partnership will continue for another 2 years! The aim of this renewed collaboration is to build upon the work that our team has already accomplished by training more Community Health Workers and providing additional health information and access to health services to families in Kibera, specifically as it relates to maternal health. RMHC has contributed millions of dollars to 9 organizations, CFK included, to continue bringing innovative health solutions to underserved communities. We are honored that RMHC sees the value in CFK’s work, the talent of CFK’s team of Community Health Workers, and the potential of the Kiberan community to thrive.

You can find the first half of the official press release announcing RMHC’s collaboration with all 9 organizations to which it has pledged support for the next 2 years by clicking here. Thank you again, Ronald McDonald House Charities!


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Organization Information

Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Leann Bankoski
Executive Director
Chapel Hill, NC United States

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