In 2018, Nyeri County was chosen among 3 other counties to spearhead the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) pilot project under the Big Four Agenda. It was chosen following the high burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs): diabetes, hypertension, and cancer in the county. The UHC project was launched to ensure that all Kenyans have access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health services at minimum financial burden.
In a bid to sustain the gains achieved after the UHC pilot in Nyeri County, the county began the journey to legislating Community Health Services. Speaking in his office in Nyeri, the Director of Health Services, Nelson Muriu, shared the process and progress so far of the legislation. Dr. Muriu notes that alongside policies, strategies, and political goodwill, there needs to be a legal framework for the regulation of community health services and the recognition of community health workers.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic refocused attention on Community Health Workers across the globe who were at the frontline in combating Covid-19. CHWs were the most easily accessible and available workforce to step in to turn off the tap of community transmission. They were there when they were most needed and that helped mitigate the impact of the pandemic. From creating awareness in the community about the disease to sensitizing people on the importance of handwashing and wearing masks went a long way.
As part of Nyeri’s high-impact interventions aimed at combating the Covid-19 pandemic, the county government sensitized the CHVs on Covid-19 prevention measures. The volunteers were essential in health education and tracing of contacts at the community level and were also instrumental in addressing the stigma that was associated with the disease and the general mental well-being of those affected.
For COVID-19 vaccination, Nyeri County presented the most effective vaccination campaign so far, with 53.2 percent of its population aged 18 years and older have completed the vaccination series according to https://www.statista.com/statistics/1252641/share-of-population-fully-vaccinated-against-covid-19-in-kenyan-counties/. Nyeri County understood the different schedules from different economic activities its people did, and hence began the ‘Moonlight project’. The project in partnership with Amref Health Africa where people who were too engaged during the day to get the vaccines got vaccinated in the evenings.
Currently, the Nyeri County Health Services Bill is at the county assembly. The County Director of Health is positive that by early next year, the bill will assent to a law. Other than the County Health Services Bill, Nyeri County also seeks to increase investment toward UHC through the FIF Bill. The passing of this bill aligns with the UHC target of increasing spending on health care. Of the revenue collected in facilities, 20% will go toward improving primary health services.
In light of lifting the plight of NCDs in the county, there have been massive investments in monitoring and treating the diseases. Community Health Volunteers have been on the frontlines of teaching preventative and health-promotive behavior among Nyeri communities. The county has also invested in the provision of glucometers, and blood pressure machines for patients.