By Whitney Akinyi

Over the last two years, more than 10 million people in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique have had their livelihoods positively impacted by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)’s Eastern Africa Regional COVID-19 Response Programme.

The project is a joint effort between the European Union (EU) and the Aga Khan Foundation launched in December 2020 chiefly to address the health, economic, and social vulnerabilities exacerbated by the pandemic.

With funding of over nine million euros, the project program prioritized systemic, gender-sensitive responses to ensure long-term resilience.

The AKDN’s response program focuses on multiple key areas such as twenty-five public healthcare facilities in the target countries that received support, including capacity building for over 1500 healthcare personnel, the provision of hospital equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE), and infrastructure improvements like the establishment of digital health platforms.

“I am delighted to see many positive outcomes of the interventions, especially in the livelihoods component that will continue to benefit young people to provide for themselves and their families and enable them to live healthy lives,” said Henriette Geiger, EU Ambassador to Kenya.

Community resilience was enhanced through increased COVID-19 awareness among vulnerable groups and the training of young journalists to share stories of hope. The program collaborated with 267 local civil society organizations (CSOs) to address the needs of the most vulnerable community members through training and rapid deployment of funds.

“Partnering with local CSOs strengthened our capacity and innovation skills to meet community needs and created a platform for interaction and networking for Civil Society Organizations’ members, these networks will further foster elevated levels of support and exchange of ideas that is essential for local CSO empowerment and their work in communities,” said Riaz Nathu, Aga Khan Foundation regional CEO.

Healthcare systems, severely impacted by the pandemic, received significant intervention. The program trained frontline healthcare workers supplied PPEs and COVID-19 testing kits, furnished intensive care equipment and medical goods, and improved digital healthcare infrastructure.

Additionally, it facilitated access to adolescent and youth-friendly health services, empowering over 45,000 young individuals through improved life skills and livelihood opportunities. The project also prioritized improving access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and Mental Health services and information for young girls while supporting youth through innovation grants and design sessions to enhance livelihood opportunities.

“The youth learning platforms created interactions between the youth and adolescents will continue to provide youth-friendly spaces for young people to network, share innovative ideas, and local solutions to community challenges,” added Riaz.

Throughout the program, 100 inspiring stories of hope were shared across various platforms, showcasing how individuals triumphed over adversity.

Led by the Aga Khan Foundation UK, the implementing partners included the Aga Khan Foundation (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique), Aga Khan Health Services (Kenya and Tanzania), Aga Khan University Hospital, Aga Khan University’s Institute for Human Development, and the Graduate School of Media Studies & Communication, along with Triggerise Stitching. (Which is a non-profit organization geared towards promoting access to sexual reproductive health and well-being for adolescents and young people.)