An Education Model for Building Health Care Capacity in Protracted Refugee Contexts 

By F. Beryl Pilkington, Isabella Mbai, Judith Mangeni, & Izzeldin Abuelaish

The refugee population in Africa continues to grow as more and more people destabilized by wars and conflicts within their own countries are forced to flee to neighboring countries. The Dadaab refugee camp located in Garissa County, Kenya is one of the oldest and largest camps in Africa hosting around 326,600 refugees mainly of Somali origin. Given that the population is much larger than intended for these camps, access to social services, education and health is a huge challenge. Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provide basic health care services with the aid of the refugee community health workers (CHWs); however, these workers receive only brief training. Meanwhile, the refugees face numerous health related challenges including outbreaks of communicable diseases which are preventable. Reliance on humanitarian NGOs for health care is protracted displacement situations like Dadaab is not sustainable. There is a need to equip refugees to play a greater role in meeting the primary health care needs of their communities. A qualitative study was conducted to collect the views of the main stakeholders including NGOs involved in training CHWs, the Ministry of Health (MOH), CHWs, and prospective candidates for training in community health regarding the education needs for health workers in Dadaab. Findings clearly indicated overwhelming support for the development of a health-related degree, with most of the prospective students and CHWs expressing interest in taking the degree. The knowledge obtained was used for the development of a BSc degree in Community Health Education that is ready for implementation. This policy brief highlights the importance of developing education models aimed at addressing health and higher education equity issues in protracted refugee situations.

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