In a bid to strengthen healthcare workers’ response to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) cases, Amref Health Africa in Kenya has trained over 500 health workers in Migori and Homabay counties. The training was aimed at equipping the health workers with forensic knowledge, which is vital in promoting professional responses to survivors of SGBV.
Healthcare workers are better placed to identify and help women and girls who are at risk of, or exposed to SGBV in the communities, hence the need for training on ethical, quality medical forensic examination, treatment, and follow-up for suspected cases or survivors of SGBV.
Speaking at a training session in Homabay County, Prof Richard Muga, the county CEC Health, said that COVID-19 had aggravated the cases of SGBV, and called on a multi sectoral approach to combating the vice. He noted that the county is looking forward to working with partners and relevant national government departments to build a strong partnership against SGBV. “We have launched an SGBV Policy, and moving forward, we are targeting to set up safe spaces for women and girls, and supply them with the safe care kits donated by Amref,” he said.
According to the National Crime and Research centre, SGBV cases in Homabay and Migori Counties are at 16% and 19.6% respectively. A study carried out by Amref Health Africa and published in July 2021 reported that one in every five Kenyans reported increased intimate partner violence – pointing to the impacts of COVID-19.
A participant, Molly Wagumba, Community Health Assistant from Kasipul Rachwonyo South said, “we have cases of SGBV in the community, sometimes it is hard to deal with it especially when the family intervenes and interferes with the legal processes.” However, Molly expressed hope that after the training, she will be better placed to engage different entities such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the police to promote justice for the survivors.
In his remarks, Mr Mboya, a Health Records Officer noted that the training had equipped him with the knowledge to face difficult and most challenging SGBV cases in the hospital. “.Recording quality data is important because it informs and assists policymakers in formulating effective policies to combat SGBV. From this training, I am now able to do on the job training at the facility and community level. Handling SGBV cases is not a one-man show, it requires a collaborative approach,” he said.
Polycap Luta Queen, Principle Chemist/Government Analyst Nyanza region expressed serious concerns about the missing or inadequate samples received at his department and urged Health workers to be very keen in collecting samples to help survivors to get justice. “If health workers do not collect, or wrongly collect biological samples, then the entire process will not be legitimate and victims will not get justice. Most health workers will focus on the medical aspect and forget the forensic detail,” noted Polycap. “Forensic analysis is a very key consideration when collecting samples. These include how to preserve it and the chain of custody that is used in the courts.”
Other participants and facilitators in the sessions included magistrates, forensic experts, investigators, criminal investigation officers, government, scientists, and other GBV experts from across the region.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya has been working with the national and county government departments to train health workers and community health workers (CHWs) on forensic management of GBV cases in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, the programme has trained over 500 health workers and 2000 CHWs on SGBV in Homabay and Migori counties.
By Maureen Cherongis, Communications Officer, Amref Health Africa