By Raisa Okwaras
According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHA) (2014), approximately fifty-two in a thousand children under five die from preventable and treatable conditions and causes every year. In addition, there is a high maternity mortality rate in Kenya with most mothers dying of complications like eclampsia, post-partum hermitage, and puerperal sepsis. The majority of these deaths occur due to limited access to a skilled midwife or pediatrician.
While there exist some pediatric sub-specialty training programs in Nairobi, most are concentrated around Nairobi, the capital. The effect of this is that even after training, most students settle in facilities closer to the city. This then leaves children in rural areas at the mercy of general nurses.
By now, you should have heard of at least one case where a child under five is diagnosed with a preventable or treatable condition yet the public hospital they are in fails to have the resources to offer specialized pediatric care. If the hospital cares, they refer the child to specialized pediatric units in major hospitals in the cities. However, if the child is in a critical condition, it will only be a matter of time before the child dies even before arrival.
In the past, pediatricians in Kenya would attend the African Pediatric Fellowship Program (APFP) in South Africa for more specialized pediatric training. However, this was not sustainable since the decade prior to the Covid-19 pandemic saw only 29 pediatric specialists from Kenya graduating from APFP.
Together with the growing need for trained pediatrics in Kenya and inspiration from the South African Institute, the Elma Foundation gave its support and Kenya Pediatric Fellowship Program (KPFP) was born in 2019.
The fellowship aims at increasing the number of pediatric subspecialists in Kenya. It plans to do so by establishing subspecialty training programs, strengthening the existing but underutilized programs, plus training more pediatric nurses, medical specialists, and nurse midwives to the public sector in Kenya.
The program, which is offering 148 scholarships, is working closely with the Ministry of health at both the national and county level, and four reputable training institutions to make it a success.
By June 2022, the program had enrolled a total of 128 trainees. The program has students from all the 47 counties in Kenya profiting from it. Such will promote equitable distribution of subspecialties in Kenya since the students will practice in their respective counties.
Source: Clinton Health Access Initiative.