Baltimore, Maryland – Kenya experiences high rates of maternal mortality, as well as HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. This is particularly the case in urban slums like Nairobi’s Korogocho and Viwandani. Although public health facilities are within walking distance to homes, many residents won’t go to them for treatment because of a lack of trust and the cost of a visit. Additionally, only an estimated 39 percent of poor Kenyans living in urban settings are using contraceptives, largely because they are unaware of family planning options, don’t have access to services and are concerned about the quality of many of them.
However, things have changed in Korogocho and Viwandani. With the help of Jhpiego, an international health organization and Johns Hopkins affiliate, residents have become empowered to take control of their health care and family planning needs. Jhpiego’s work in these two slums over the past five years has led to tangible achievements: the use of family planning methods in clinics where we have worked has increased more than 50 percent and as much as 300 percent in the case of the contraceptive pill; residents, with the help of community leaders and other local groups, have organized to identify services that are lacking and demand better health facilities. More than 250 community health workers have been trained to deliver family planning help along with HIV/AIDS treatment.
Jhpiego has been selected for a $22.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lead its Kenya Urban Reproductive Health Initiative and continue the Baltimore-based organization’s work with the urban poor in reproductive health.
In this role, Jhpiego will lead a team of partner organizations to improve the quality and availability of family planning services for the poor in targeted urban centers in Kenya with the goal of increasing contraceptive use by more than 20 percent. A key feature of the plan will be offering women family planning options when they come to a clinic to be tested for HIV or bring a child to be immunized – a single visit, integrated approach that is not customary in Kenya.
Jhpiego and its partners, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, will mobilize communities, work with the private sector to implement and scale-up programs; and build the capacity of Kenyan organizations to ensure these programs continue beyond the five-year project.