Afya Elimu Fund: Kenyans Improving the Country’s Health System
by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec
Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr. Cleopha Mailu, Cabinet Secretary for Education Matiang’i, Mr. Charles Ringera, CEO of Higher Education Loans Board, Dr. Amit T. Thakker, CEO of the Kenya Healthcare Federation, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hamjambo! Habari Zenu?
Let me begin by saying how pleased I am to be here today among this dynamic group of individuals who are helping Kenya meet its goal of quality, accessible healthcare for all of its citizens. I commend you. I know that strengthening Kenya’s health system is at the core of the Government’s reform agenda. And the American people are pleased to be a strong and committed partner with all of you to invest across a spectrum of health and education programs that are improving the survival, well-being, and productivity of the people of this great nation.
It is a pleasure, too, to commend the progress of the Afya Elimu Fund. This initiative builds on the growing collaboration between the Governments of Kenya and the United States to train Kenyans to improve the country’s health system.
During my time in Kenya, I have traveled to communities across the country and talked with people from all walks of life. They have told me about the health challenges they and their families face.
The difficulties include the high incidence of preventable maternal and childhood illness, widespread prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the resurgence of communicable diseases like tuberculosis, as well as growing concern with cancers and other non-communicable diseases. All of these challenges put pressure on health workers to do more within an already constrained and under-resourced system.
Devolution is strengthening the health sector’s ability to ensure access to consistent and quality healthcare for all Kenyans, and to improve accountability and equity in the delivery of those services in all parts of the country.
But, there remain challenges. One of the obstacles is the significant shortage of qualified, well-trained healthcare workers, particularly in high disease burden and rural, hard-to-reach areas.
We all know that there is no shortage of bright and dedicated young Kenyans who are ready to serve their communities. But many of these students don’t have resources to pay for professional health training or are forced to drop out of school due to high tuition fees.
So, our challenge is to make sure that Kenyans have the means to enroll in and complete training that allows them to take full advantage of their talents and start meaningful, and needed, careers in health.
For many years now, the U.S. Government has supported the Government in Kenya in addressing its health workforce needs. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — known to all as PEPFAR — has worked broadly and successfully to improve the quality of human resources for health in delivering HIV/AIDS services.
Now with the Afya Elimu Fund, we see a unique opportunity for investment and partnership. For the U.S. Government, private sector partnership offers a path to sustainability and self-sufficiency. It provides one of the best routes to ensure innovation and to create continual improvement in all aspects of health. We want to continue working with you all to enable private sector participation in health workforce development.
The initiative brings together the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the U.S. Government, and the private sector through the Kenya Healthcare Federation. It is an outstanding example of synergy and partnership. By helping students access and continue their education without disruption, and go on to graduate and gain employment, the Afya Elimu revolving loan fund will deliver health-focused social benefits across the entire country for years to come.
I’m pleased to be able to recognize the foundational commitments of USAID and PEPFAR to the Fund—almost KSH 200 million since its inception in 2013! This is in addition to the over KSH 300 million investment from the Higher Education Loans Board and the Ministry of Health in this same period. We also recognize the diverse and complementary commitments from across the private sector. This collective effort puts the Fund on solid footing to achieve its goal of raising a total of KSH 1.5 billion.
I wish to congratulate you all for achieving such significant success to date, and to reiterate the U.S. government’s commitment to working with you to equip young Kenyans to solve the health challenges of today and in the future.
Pamoja tusonge mbele. Asanteni sana.