HELB Afya Elimu Fund For KMTC Students Launched
A new loan programme targeting mid-level medical trainees like nurses, clinical officers, nutritionists and lab technologists in a bid to increase the country’s health workforce has officially been rolled out.
The programme dubbed ‘Afya Elimu Fund’ was launched by Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i, on behalf of Deputy President William Ruto on Thursday, to address the shortage of health workers in Kenya by increasing access to financing.
The Fund, which was established in 2013, offers beneficiaries loans ranging from KSh40,000 to KSh60,000 per academic year depending on their financial status and the availability of funds. Beneficiaries get a one-year grace period upon graduating before repaying the loans at an interest rate of four percent per annum.
Dr. Matiang’i observed that the revolving Fund would be instrumental in bridging the gaps in the country’s health human resource by increasing frontline health workers. It has so far benefitted more than 9,000 students with 85 percent enrolled at the Kenya Medical Training College. The remaining 15 percent are distributed in private and faith based organizations.
“The genius of the Afya Elimu Fund is that it assures Kenyans a steady supply of skilled health workers giving them hope of having more demand than supply in the near future,” said the Education CS. “To its credit, this Fund is not just about new workers but it also seeks to ensure access to training for health workers in the mid-level cadres.”
Health Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu added that it was important for Kenya to scale up its health workforce in order to secure and match the investments that have been made in the health sector. This includes the KSh38 billion Managed Equipment Services Project, the KSh4.5 billion Free Maternity Services, KSh28 billion for the reduction of HIV, TB and malaria, expansion of the National Hospital Fund benefits, the establishment of the Emergency Operation Centre among others.
He explained that the nurse and doctor ratio per a 100,000 population remained low, standing at 165 and 21 respectively. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 36 doctors and 356 nurses per a 100,000 population. To meet the WHO staffing threshold, Kenya will be expected to increase the production of new health workers by at least 50 percent.
“This ratio is low considering the dynamic unidirectional nature of health workers migration. We must match our investments with the requisite well trained human resource for health,” said Dr. Mailu.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Robert Godec said that his government would continue partnering with Kenya to enhance the delivery of health services. The United States has contributed more than KSh200 million to the Fund.
At the same time USAID funded FUNZOKenya Chief of Party Dr. Caroline Karutu revealed that the Fund had disbursed more than KSh500 million since its inception. She added that priority is given to students from poor backgrounds as well as those from marginalised areas; those from areas that have high incidences of HIV and high maternal-infant mortality.
Afya Elimu Fund was jointly established by the Ministry of Health, the High Education Loans Board, Intrahealth International through the United States Agency for International Development funded FUNZOKenya Project and the Kenya Healthcare Federation. The Fund has also received contributions amounting to KSh5.6 million from the Family Group Foundation, I&M Bank and the Rattansi Educational Trust. HELB administers over the Fund.