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Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. We believe this is possible and it starts with strong primary health care. Primary health care is a whole-of-society approach to health and well-being centred on the needs and preferences of individuals, families and communities. Read Sinead’s blog below.

Health For All – Everyone, Everywhere

“Existing everywhere or involving everyone” that is the definition of the word Universal. Universal health coverage (UHC) is the theme for World Health day on the 7th of April 2019 and is the number one goal of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It means that all people everywhere can have access to the quality health services they need, in a timely manner when they need them with no financial difficulty. The success of this goal is largely underpinned by the availability of quality primary health care.

Sr. Rosemary Awor, Martin, and Sr. Josephine outside the cyber café where Martin Kamau works with his dad. Martin is a beneficiary of services provided by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Thigio, Kenya for children and adults living with disabilities. Photo: Misean Cara.

“Health for All” – the core objective of the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Healthcare which marked its 40th anniversary in 2018, arose as a significant turning point of the twentieth century in the area of public health as this declaration identified primary healthcare as the key to attaining the goal of health for all.

Misean Cara believes that access to health, clean water and sanitation is a human right and that honouring this fundamental right is vital to building prosperous societies and essential to sustainable development.

This declaration highlights the need to keep pushing for the right of all individuals to good health and well-being as marked in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.

Staff and beneficiaries of the Love and Hope Centre in Nakuru, Kenya following a presentation to myself [Misean Cara Project Officer Sinead Murray] during a monitoring visit. The centre is managed by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, and has been a lifeline to the community in Nakuru for over 20 years. Supported by Misean Cara, the staff at the centre use an integrated approach to tackling HIV/AID by focusing on health, livelihoods and advocacy. Photo: Sinead Murray.

We face several challenges to global health today. Air pollution and climate change, non-communicable diseases, weak primary healthcare, conflict and displacement are exacerbating weaknesses in human development. Consequently it is necessary to increase the promotion of public participation in healthcare, increase community-based approaches in health system strengthening and progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

Our members have been delivering quality healthcare in developing countries for generations, and are deeply embedded in the communities in which they work. By adopting a community-based approach of which a rights-based approach is integral, Misean Cara members respond to the immediate and obvious needs of a community. They also empower communities to identify their own needs and claim their rights, whilst involving them in each step of project implementation.

Two lab technicians from the Live with Hope Centre in Kericho, Kenya proudly display their new haematology analyser funded by Misean Cara. The facility provides primary health care services to people living in Kericho and surrounding areas. Photo: Sinead Murray.

A long-term presence in a community, coupled with a strong health education initiative, can bring about a change in attitude on the part of individuals and communities towards a focus on preventive measures. In Kajiado, Kenya, for example, in a health project run by Misean Cara member the Society of the Divine Saviour, there has been a gradual shift towards families overcoming vaccine hesitancy and presenting for immunisation; and pregnant women seeking to deliver in the presence of trained health personnel.

In 2018, Misean Cara supported 52 health projects implemented by 27 members in 22 countries to a value of over €3.3m, with a target population of almost 825,000 direct beneficiaries.

Khoma and her grandparents pictured outside of their home in Kitale, Kenya. They are beneficiaries of a Misean Cara supported nutrition programme run by the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary. Photo: Sinead Murray.

These projects covered sub sectors of communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, water and sanitation and maternal and child health.  Our members strive to provide “Health for All” in the communities they work. They reach out to the most vulnerable, marginalised and stigmatised in society by building the capacity of communities, staff and working closely with government bodies to realise this goal.

Also in Kenya, and with a view to long-term sustainability, all 10 of Misean Cara members implementing health projects are promoting the Kenyan Government’s National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), both in communities during outreach visits and during one-to-one encounters in clinics  during community outreach and during one-to-one consultations.

Staff from the Tangulbei Divisional Medical Programme (TDMP) clinic in East Pokot, Kenya speaking with members of the local community. The TDMP has one static facility and eight outreach posts. Set up by the Holy Ghost Fathers Kenya (Spiritans), they work with the Pokot community in an extremely isolated region with the nearest hospital 124km away. Support from Misean Cara has brought access to maternal and child health services, preventative medicine for communicable and non-communicable diseases and health awareness education. Photo: Sinead Murray.

For longer-term health systems strengthening, Misean Cara supports projects that focus on the training of staff. In Malawi, for example, St. Patrick’s Missionary Society plans to graduate 140 nurses by 2021 from St. John’s College of Nursing and Midwifery. Misean Cara member, the Faithful Companions of Jesus, have been working with the Catholic Health Training Institute in South Sudan since 2011, contributing to the development of local capacity in the national health service. Under its current three-year plan, the Institute aims to graduate 141 nurses and midwives by 2021.

As we mark World Health Day, we are mindful of the current global challenges and threats that surround us. It can be difficult to not feel overwhelmed and easier to turn a blind eye, yet Misean Cara members face these challenges with unwavering resilience, aiming to reach those further behind.

Photo Caption: Sr Veronica project manager of the Salawa dispensary with the local community chief and Misean Cara Project Officer Sinead Murray at the clinic after a successful meeting. Support from Misean Cara funds the dispensary that provides primary healthcare services to a population of 150,000 people in Baringo, Kenya. Photo: Misean Cara.