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  • An update from Kwale – Meet Ilse

Ilse joins the team as our programme support assistant in Kwale, where she’s working on our projects championing postnatal care.

Earlier this year, began working in Kwale, a coastal county about 500km from Nairobi. With over 70% of the county living below the poverty line (a major contributing factor to poor maternal and child health outcomes) we identified Kwale as a region where our programmes could have significant impact on maternal health. Being 500km away from our Head Office in Nairobi, we knew we needed a local link between and our partner clinics and community health volunteer network, which is where our newest team member Ilse comes in!
Meet Ilse

Hi! My name is Ilse Kithembe, I’m a sports and yoga lover with a background in international relations and diplomacy (and a minor in information technology!). Prior to working with, I worked in mentorship camps and resource mobilization. In Kwale, I serve as the programme support assistant for the Kwale Baby Box project.

What are you most excited about in joining the team in Kwale?​

I am excited to learn more about the journey of mothers from the time they get pregnant to when their babies start growing. Learning about clinics, women’s health, and taking care of babies is a field that is pushing me beyond my comfort zone. As a young woman, I am equally excited about working in rural communities with women and filling a gap that exists in women’s health.

A key part of our work involves working with Community Health Volunteers (CHVs), can you tell us a bit more about why their role is so important in Kwale?
Community Health Volunteers play a key role in ensuring mums and babies are safe and healthy – they are the tool used by health officers to relay important information. In areas such as Kwale, some mothers live far away from health facilities. It’s here where CHVs are crucial: we use CHVs to reach mothers and relay important information, create awareness about developments in the health centre and distribute health-related items and services such as mosquito nets, vaccines, and data collection.

What impact do you think’s projects in Kwale will have on postnatal care uptake and why is this important?

Most mums in Kwale have been losing their newborn and unborn babies due to a lack of knowledge about danger signs for mothers and children under one year. We know this is linked to mums not attending antenatal and postnatal clinics. Our projects focus on encouraging mothers to attend postnatal clinics so that they get crucial information on how to take care of themselves and their children. With our Baby Box project, additional elements such as the box will help mums with safe-sleeping practices, and the items offered alongside such as the mosquito net will help protect newborn babies.

One key part of the Baby Box project is that registration and sessions are conducted in health facilities, meaning mums are encouraged to seek help from and within hospitals and clinics as opposed to traditional healers. The information they share with their peers will encourage more mothers to attend clinics, creating a wider movement of mums making use of health facilities and ultimately reinforcing and strengthening the existing health infrastructure.

What’s next for and Kwale?

Another key part of our work in the region is training public health officers and nurses to promote postnatal care as this is an area that hasn’t been championed as much as it should be. We want to explore this with our Your Newborn project – where Kwale will be one of the regions we’ll be working in. Through training health professionals who deal with mothers directly, we hope the Your Newborn project will encourage health professionals to take keen interest in educating mothers about the postnatal services they can access, and further information about their health and that of their babies after giving birth. This training will improve the quality of care mothers and babies receive when they use the health facilities the CHVs and our projects signpost them to!

If you’d like to find out more about our work in Kwale, check out Doreen’s update on Baby Boxes and our plans for our Your Newborn project. If you’d like to support our work in Kwale, you can donate to our Your Newborn appeal here.


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