Lwala Community Alliance was requested by the Kenyan Ministry of Health to expand their community-led health model throughout Migori County. Lwala began a three-year project to develop their existing maternal and child health services in the county.
In December 2019, Migori County experienced massive flooding, destroying homes, farms, and infrastructure. Nearly 1,800 people were displaced and living in temporary camps, at least one major healthcare centre was flooded, children were at risk of malnutrition due to food shortages and HIV positive patients were facing an interruption in ARV treatment. The conditions also increased the risk of water-borne illnesses, especially typhoid and cholera.
Based on previous experience, Lwala knew that it would be hopeless to continue with their core programming without addressing the immediate needs of the community. Additionally, the Ministry of Health in the county specifically requested Lwala to assist with its emergency response. Lwala did have limited reserve funds but were reticent to use the funding for such a short-term, project-focused threat.
The organisation applied to Risk Pool Fund for $20,000 which enabled them to partner with the MOH and several other NGOs to provide immediate relief to the affected families and mitigate the disease which jeopardised their project. In the last week of December 2019, Lwala implemented outreach activities to displaced families, using canoes to reach those cut off by the flooding. They distributed water treatment supplies, provided health interventions and hygiene training and handed out food provisions. By January the flooding had subsided and Lwala assisted with resettlement.
Lwala reported, “Not only were we able to respond to the Ministry of Health’s call to action, but we secured the health system and strengthened our relationship with the county as a trusted and responsive partner.”
In a recent follow-up report Lwala added that shortly after this event, COVID-19 began threating health systems in Kenya. The county took lessons from the task force that responded to the flood in order to prepare a response to the pandemic. While the two crises were very different in scope and context, the existing relationships and some of the coordination mechanisms within MOH proved relevant. Lwala itself also learnt from the experience, as it furthered the organization’s resolve to remain flexible in their planning and truly align with MOH priorities. In 2020, Lwala therefore amended its workplans to respond to COVID-19 and ensure that supporting the MOH in maintaining essential services was its highest priority.