Going beyond the call of duty…Save the Children staff involvement is saving lives

Monday 3 July 2017

By Lawrence Otieno

Esther with baby Elijah.

This story is about Elijah, a two year old boy who was severely burnt in a fire accident when he was just five months old. Elijah’s mother, 24 year old Esther has three other children and Elijah is the youngest. She says the family’s house was completely burnt down; she lost everything and only saved Elijah.  Elijah was treated at Bungoma County hospital and referred for plastic surgery. The parents could not afford to pay for the surgery.

When Save the Children staff met Elijah in November 2016, he was living in pain; the skin on his face and his left arm needed plastic surgery.

Led by Lawrence a Save the Children community development officer and Vanina Kacheva from GSK, the team supported the family to register with the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and paid NHIF subscription for one year. Elijah is scheduled to undergo plastic surgery and get the essential health care service that he needs to survive.

Esther’s story in her own words
“Elijah got burnt in September 2014. I left him sleeping in the house and went to buy some items at a nearby shop. Shortly upon my arrival at the shop, my eldest daughter came calling me that our house was burning. When I arrived, I found Elijah lying on a burning mattress,” says Esther.

Esther adds: “We took Elijah to Bungoma District Hospital and when his condition improved, the doctor advised us to take him for plastic surgery. We did not have money for the surgery so we took him to the District Commissioner’s (DC) office to register him as a disabled person hoping that he would be considered as disabled and get help from the disabled people fund paid monthly. Our plan was to accumulate the funds and thereafter use it to pay for plastic surgery services as per the doctor’s advice.”

“The DC took some photos of Elijah and sent them to Nairobi but we were told that Elijah was disqualified and could not be enrolled as a disabled child. We therefore gave up on the plastic surgery,” she says.

Asked whether she know about NHIF, Esther says: I know that NHIF helps people who are sick, but our life in this family is fully depending on God’s mercy. I always take vegetables on credit sell and pay afterwards. I remain with almost nothing after paying for the vegetables. Elijah’s father has a very small income; he works at a retail shop in Bungoma town and cannot afford the surgery. He buys food, pays school fees for the children and rent since our family house got burnt. I will welcome any assistance which can help my son to recover from this deformity. My need is health assistance for Elijah.”

Motivated to save lives:
Lawrence from Save the Children says: “My personal motivation is that I am a Child protection Focal Person for the Bungoma Field Office. I have worked for three years implementing the maternal and newborn health programme which has exposed me to the challenges children face.  I understand their problems and I like being part of the solution. I understand what poverty is and its impacts at the household level. The moment I heard about Esther, I was enthusiastic to meet her together with Elijah and I was touched when I saw Elijah. I thought of different approaches which could improve Elijah’s condition and settled on the NHIF.”


Esther and Elijah with other children during the visit from Save the Children and GSK staff

Call to action:
Save the Children is calling on leaders to make three guarantees for every child: fair finance, equal treatment and accountability to children. By securing specific changes in policies, laws, budgets and public norms, Save the Children can make significant strides in terms of child survival and learning.  Esther’s family is one of the households experiencing economic constrains and cannot afford health care services for their child.

Project information:

Save the Children with funding from GlaxoSmithKline, is implementing a maternal and newborn health project in Bungoma County. The programme aims to achieve a 21% reduction in maternal and new born deaths by 2018, impacting the lives of an estimated 16,468 newborns and 22,550 pregnant women.

The NHIF is a State Parastatal that provides medical insurance cover to all its members and their declared dependants (spouse and children). The membership is open to all Kenyans who have attained the age of 18 years.

Working in close collaboration with the County governments, the GSK funded project is advocating for increase in allocation of funds towards maternal and new-born health as well as equitable distribution of health workers and keeping them motivated to serve communities.

To date, the project has paid annual NHIF premium of £47 for 738 community health volunteers who are mobilizing community members to enrol as part of cushioning them from catastrophic health expenditure.