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A young mother is standing on a scale to measure her weight and her height

Jamii Smart

There is perhaps no other region in Kenya that expresses the challenges facing the marginalised, than Samburu. A county seemingly trapped in the past, and hosting mostly nomadic and pastrolistic communities, has had to do with less than the bare basics.

For over half a century, AMREF has not only provided health care services to the most vulnerable communities in the Kenya, but as well focused on improving maternal health care and reducing the under-five mortality rate. According to Dr. Lennie Kyomuhangi, the Interim CEO of AMREF Health Africa International, “all indicators and reports told a sad story of high infant and maternal mortality rates in Samburu”.

Knowing they alone could not alter the dire healthcare situation in Samburu, AMREF turned to M-PESAFoundation for assistance in 2013.

In June 2013, the Samburu MNCH Impact Project was launched at Barsaloi and Suguta Mar Mar. Drawn into the promising partnership was the Ministry of Health and the PharmAccess Group.


This is Simon Gichohi’s story. A nurse at the Barsaloi Dispensary since 2009, his expedition to Samburu from rich vegetative plains of Ol Kalau can only be described as answering a call to service. Gichohi’s initial vocation was to be a soldier and if not, then an accountant. These thoughts changed dramatically when Gichohi nursed his brother back to health in his final year of high school. Since then, everything that he has done centres on taking care of people.

“When I arrived here, there was no means of transport; no means of communication, and there was no network. With an emergency case, you can spend three hours on the road if you have a vehicle. What if you don’t?

I remember one case that was about 30 kilometres from the facility. It was a retained placenta. Someone walked from 4 am to 1pm to reach the facility and report the case. Then, I didn’t even have a motorbike to use. I had to contact a teacher who was within this area to take me to that home. We took 1 ½ hours on the motorbike as it was a very rough road. Thankfully, we managed to solve the case and the community really appreciated it.

The baby boy is now 4 years old and very healthy as is the mother.”


Since the introduction of the Jamii Smart platform to the Barsaloi community, the CHV’s have been using the software to upload data in real time via the mobile phone by Gichohi. At a click of a button, he can be able to get all the medical information concerning the patient since they started using the service. It’s very easy and has freed him and other medical staff from the tedious manual reporting that was previously employed. Significantly, it also means that intervention measures can then be engineered for the specific person and area at a much faster rate.

Already hospital delivery has increased from 1 to 6 births per month. From 8, the dispensary now has 40 patients using Ante Natal Care services. As for Family Planning, it has gone up to 60 clients from 15. The clinic also now immunises 13 children up from 4. To Simon, the launch coupled with the earlier training of Community Health Units (CHU) in the year, is the cause for the dramatic change in Barsaloi.

Using Amref’s hugely successful mLearning platform, Samburu MNCH Impact project has so far trained 70 Community Health Volunteers (CHV) and their supervisors in Barsaloi such as Gichohi. The Health Enablement and Learning Platform (HELP), of which the M-PESA Foundation invested significantly in, provides text and audio content in English or Swahili on a weekly basis to the CHVs via their mobile phones.

Best of all and regardless of the CHVs location, they are able to connect to each other and their supervisors free of charge. All this is possible because of Safaricom’s recent installation of a base station for its mobile network in Barsaloi.


Before the CHU was set up, it wasn’t easy to follow up with the mothers. Usually, they’d visit only during labour, especially when it had become complicated. But now, mothers come in for 4 or 5 visits. It is really the input of the CHV who have been working over the last 6 months.

Given the system’s responsiveness, there remain many who only and seek healthcare services in emergency cases. Early in January, 25 year old Margaret Lengewat was about 3 kilometres from the Barsaloi Dispensary when a CHV spotted her and realised that she was in labour at about 8pm. The CHV’s quick intervention led her to the M-PESA Foundation renovated maternity wing of Barsaloi Dispensary. Here nurse Gichohi ensured the safe delivery of her baby boy and Margaret’s wellness.

Now Margaret – a mother of four – is registered on the Jamii Smart platform. She has promised to come back to the clinic for additional checkups with her baby.

Because she is now registered, it is very easy to follow up with Margaret. Jamii Smart sends a message reminding her of her appointment and the same to the CHV.

For Stephen, Margaret’s appreciation of the medical services is reason enough to know he made the right decision when he answered the call to serve as a nurse.

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