According to Ministry of Health records available at the Chanjo Portal, Lokwatubwa village in Turkana County is leading in the Covid-19 vaccination rate in the County. This remote village, located deep in Loima Sub County, is 98 km from Lodwar town. Nanok Simon, the nurse in charge of Lokwatubwa Health Centre, attributes their success to good strategy and dedication.
Nanok explains that in an area like Loima, health centers are far-stretched, making it difficult for people to access health services. However, outreaches have been very important in bringing services, including vaccines, closer to the people. Before dispensing outreach services, which are usually under a tree, the community is given awareness health talks to enlighten them on diseases and how they can protect themselves.
Nanok highlights that the success of the vaccination campaign in Lokwatubwa village is due to a collective effort between religious leaders, administrative heads, and health workers. He emphasizes that community mobilization is a crucial aspect of creating demand for Covid-19 vaccination. Those who have received the vaccine influence others who have not to go for it. Additionally, the availability of staff in the facility to give the vaccine when anyone comes, integration of the normal services in both outreach and facility with the Covid-19 vaccination, and having the vaccine available at all times are essential strategies.
Despite the success, Nanok mentions several challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the distance from some villages to the health facility, with some villages having no passable roads, only footpaths. This poses a significant challenge in accessing the villages. Community health volunteers (CHVs) who work tirelessly to reach out to people in remote areas sometimes feel demotivated when they do not receive reimbursement. Staff shortage is another challenge, with essential services like other routine immunizations and any technical services being paralyzed at the health center when the nurse is out providing outreach services.
What is PanAfricare doing?
PanAfricare is spearheading Covid-19 awareness and vaccination efforts in off-the-grid communities in Turkana and Makueni Counties through the Vaccine Action Network project (VAN Project). The project provides training to health workers and community health volunteers to increase vaccination rates in these remote areas.
PanAfricare engages in consultative meetings with various stakeholders, such as religious leaders, local governments, administrative units, community influencers, and healthcare workers, to develop strategies that effectively reach these communities. The organization is also supporting outreach services to far-flung areas where healthcare access is limited. To further raise awareness, PanAfricare is using various media platforms such as radio, television, social media, and outdoor campaigns to educate the public on the importance of vaccination.
The Vaccination Action Network (VAN) project is supported by Rockefeller Foundation through AMREF-Kenya with an aim to increase demand and access to Covid-19 vaccination through Local Implementation in Makueni and Turkana County.
The initiative seeks to create awareness among community members on the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and to mobilize resources to support the county’s health systems in delivering the vaccine.
To achieve this, PanAfricare-Kenya has engaged with local community leaders and resource persons, healthcare workers, and other stakeholders to sensitize on the benefits of vaccination and create demand for vaccination.
The project is also utilizing mainstream and social media to disseminate information on Covid-19 vaccination and address any concerns or misinformation that may exist in the community. Continuous close collaboration with the county government, local health facilities, and other stakeholders has been utilized to ensure that the vaccination drive is efficient and effective.
By doing so, PanAfricare-Kenya aims to contribute to the global effort to control the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure that the people of Makueni and Turkana County are protected against the disease.
Story by Dominic Kosgei, PanAfricare Kenya Communications Officer