NGO Partnering in Kenya: The road to social development

Fewer than 30% of Kenyans have access to an all-weather road [1]. This basic infrastructural limitation compromises the ability of the majority of the 44.3 million population to easily access two key pillars of social development, healthcare and education. EPAfrica focuses on the latter, aiming to improve the quality of education in rural secondary schools with the idea of opening doors for further, lasting development. Riders for Health are an NGO based in seven countries across Africa, providing appropriate modes of transport to healthcare workers  in order to improve accessibility, ‘bridging the last mile’ between the state healthcare provisions and the rural communities.Last weekend while the Project Workers were enjoying their trip to Kakamega rainforest, we [the Summer Team] were able to visit the Riders for Health workshop in Kisumu to share ideas about the work and future of both of our NGOs.

My own interest in Kenya’s Riders for Health stems from the case study focus of an AQA A level Geography exam this summer. I have just completed a PGCE, and my experiences of Kenya – gained through my work as a Project Worker with EPAfrica in 2014 – meant that I could help to contextualise the exam. In Kenya, Riders for Health are based in Kisumu, operating in the former Nyanza and Western provinces, the same as EPAfrica, and the most densely populated areas of Kenya. This combined with its tropical climate means that HIV and malaria are endemic. By supplying bodas [motorbikes] to healthcare workers, Riders for Health have been able to reach 2.6 million people, covering 73.9 km each month. Each week this means that an extra 20,000 people are receiving vital healthcare [1].

This year, the 25th year of EPAfrica operating in Kisii, the mode of delivery of the project has evolved; moving from project-based (inputs) to six main goals (outcomes), allowing Project Workers more flexibility in the areas of improvement they focus on. One of our goals is ‘Improving Health’, something that this year seems to be a key focus in all of our partner schools, be it through improved sanitation or access to water or health days. Last year my project school – St Dominic Rusinga – invited Jerusa, a local healthcare volunteer who is HIV positive, to speak to the students and discuss issues they are facing. The stigma surrounding HIV, seemingly particularly in this area, closes the conversation, meaning that it is still something that some would rather be blissfully ignorant about or shy away from testing and discussing, which only perpetuates the problem. Healthcare workers, like Jerusa and those that work with Riders for Health, break down those barriers, which has been evidenced at Rusinga, with students opening up about their HIV status and subsequently receiving support in school. Jerusa has been invited to a number of EPAfrica’s partner schools this year, and hopefully the successes of last year will be repeated.

Like EPAfrica, Riders for Health also have a stake in education; teaching people how to protect themselves against malaria, through the distribution and proper use of mosquito nets. They also open up the conversation about HIV. Homa Bay, on the Lake, has the highest prevalence of HIV in Kenya, with 27.1% [2] of the population HIV positive. The area is stigmatized in Kenya, but with the help of Riders for Health, more people are being seen, more antiretrovirals are being distributed, and healthcare workers break down the fear and misconceptions through something as simple as human contact. According to Riders for Health, Homa Bay has been one of the areas where they have had most impact.

The similarities between EPAfrica and Riders for Health go beyond just the areas in which we both work, but the shared idea and commitment to working in partnership to empower local communities and stakeholders who know what they need most.

1. Riders for Health website, (accessed August 2015).
2. UNAIDS (2014) ‘Kenya Aids Response Progress Report’ (accessed August 2015).