Student Spotlight: Investigating How Health Navigation Improves Maternal Mortality on Mfangano Island

This year, we are grateful to have University of Minnesota Med Student, Nick DesLauriers, with us as a Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellow! Nick is currently working alongside our team on Mfangano to develop and implement the MOMENTUM Study on Mfangano. Check out the recent Student Spotlight article – Nick shares is first hand experience working on Mfangano!

“In July 2018, Nick DesLauriers arrived on the island as a Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellow. He is working with Charles (Chas) Salmen, UMN Department of Family Medicine assistant professor, on a project funded by a UMN Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (CGHSR) seed grant. The research team is studying whether the “Health Navigator” program, through which trained community health volunteers (CHVs)—first responders—in the village, can effectively coordinate and expedite emergency care transfers to the mainland. The project uses an emergency boat, available 24-hours a day, with a captain and a nurse.”Read more!

OHR Co-Founder Joel Oguta Speaks at University of Minnesota

During the month of September, OHR Co-Founder Joel Oguta is in Minnesota on a Visiting Scholar Award sponsored by the University of Minnesota Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. After hosting hundreds of volunteers and visitors in his home on Mfangano Island, this is Joel’s first trip to the United States!

During his time in Minnesota, Joel will be helping to launch the “Mfangano Island Community Health Field Station,” a new partnership between the University of Minnesota and Organic Health Response. The vision for the field station is to cultivate community-based research, bilateral training opportunities, and foster long-term resilience among the communities of Lake Victoria. Through an adaptive “Community Health Ecosystem” model, we hope to grow transcultural friendships to better understand deep problems and cultivate creative, enduring solutions.

On Tuesday, September 11th, Joel gave a Community Health & Activism Talk (CHAT) called “Living Off the Land: A day in the life of a subsistence farmer on remote Mfangano Island in Kenya.” This was held at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center. CHAT is a monthly series of talks around matters that are important in health and healthcare delivery. 

$100,000 CAD Stars in Global Health Award to Improve Maternal Health

We are excited to announce the receipt of a $100,000 CAD Stars in Global Health Award to expand our Health Navigation model, funded by Grand Challenges Canada! This 18-month project will strengthen the emergency referral system for mothers and newborns on the remote island of Mfangano by establishing a durable pathway for healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries, and effective referrals. Beginning in April, this project will support community education for mothers, male partners and traditional birth attendants and will help us train 30 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to serve as “Health Navigators” during critical emergencies. Over the course of this project, we seek to improve maternal and newborn health, demonstrated by:
  • Increase in number of pregnancies with at least 4 ANC visits from 27% at baseline to 70% 
  • Increase in skilled birth attendance from 36% at baseline to 70% 
  • Improved access to emergency obstetric care, indicated by an average time of 120 minutes to reach care from the time symptoms present 
  • 70% births having a follow-up visit within 3 days 
  • Qualitative decrease in patient’s financial concerns caused by obstetric emergencies 
We are thankful for all of you who supported the pilot phase of this project, such as our Rotarian partners in Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley community, and look forward to the next 18-months of community implementation!
To learn more about Grand Challenges Canada and the Stars in Global Health Program, click here.

Kanyakla Expansion Study is Complete!

Over the past 5 years Organic Health Response-Ekialo Kiona has graduated over 100 “Kanyakla” groups from our innovative HIV microclinic curriculum on Mfangano. After a successful pilot in 2014, OHR designed a Randomized Control Trial to help us better assess the impact of this intervention on retention in HIV care and treatment adherence with “Kanyakla” groups across 4 islands in Mfangano Division. Our staff worked up and down to track 301 participants, and despite study delay due to 2017 election instability, we are excited to announce that data collection is complete!

Kanyakla Program

Glenwood Springs CO helps kick off “Mfangano Tomorrow!”

Co-Founder, Chas Salmen sharing OHR’s vision of a sustainable future for Mfangano Island.

Last week, two long-time supporters of Organic Health Response, Bruce and Jan Shugart, graciously opened their home in Glenwood Springs, CO to help us kick off the 2018 “Mfangano Tomorrow” Capital Campaign! Over the course of the evening, 25 friends and guests came together to learn more about the remote communities of Mfangano Island, Kenya and pitched in to support the vital growth of this community for generations to come. Together, this dedicated group raised over $10,850! 

Big thanks to Bruce and Jan for organizing the event, opening their home and helping OHR to grow our network! We are also grateful for the food provided, the beautiful kitenge bags made by Mfangano craftswoman Elida, and all of the new and old friends who shared the evening with us.

This is the first of many gatherings to support “Mfangano Tomorrow.” Stay tuned to help us secure a sustainable future for Mfangano Island, Kenya.

Guests gather in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Help save our radio this #givingtuesday!

In the spirit of giving thanks this holiday season, help get EK-FM Radio, a beloved community radio station in Mfangano Island, Kenya back on the air! To learn more and donate this #GivingTuesday, visit

EK-FM Radio is a local community radio station that is operated by the Ekialo Kiona (“EK”) Center, in partnership with Organic Health Response, on Mfangano Island in western Kenya.

Sustained by wind and solar power and administered by local youth, EK FM Radio provides a popular and eclectic array of cultural, environmental, and public health programming to over 200,000 listeners along the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

The Problem:

In 2017, EK-FM Radio was forced to shut down indefinitely because of permanent hardware damages to the station’s transmitter that were caused by an electrical storm surge. Your donation will help the EK Center purchase an urgently needed FM stereo transmitter and related equipment.

The work of EK FM Radio is more critical than ever.

Radio is by far the dominant and most important mass medium in Africa. Community radio stations have the unique ability to connect isolated communities and disseminate critical information .

EK FM is the only radio station in the region to broadcast in Suba, an ancient Bantu language that came to Mfangano Island with its first inhabitants – Abacunta clans who escaped political persecution in Uganda over 15 generations ago.

Islanders lived in relative isolation until 1954, when a lucrative but invasive species of fish, the Nile perch, was introduced into Lake Victoria’s waters. A commercial fishing boom followed that decimating the region’s marine biodiversity, attracting thousands of workers from every corner of East Africa.

The industry eventually declined after the 1980s, devastating the island’s economy, environment and public health. Today, Mfangano has one of the most HIV-impacted populations on the planet, with a 30% infection rate that is 5 times higher than Kenya’s national average.

Since then, Mfangano Island has also suffered from widespread cultural erosion due to the school language policies and the influx of mainland Kenyans from other regions. Today, Suba is classified as a UNESCO endangered language.

Help us reach our goal of raising $5,000 today! Donate at

OHR Partners with Rotary to implement $35,000 Global Grant!

IMG_1619 (1)

Organic Health Response is excited announce our partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Mfangano Mbita and Fort Collins Breakfast in Colorado to implement a $35,000 Rotary International Global Grant! This grant will expand the proven Mfangano Health Network (“Kanyakla” program) to 70 new support groups, reaching 15 new villages in 2017-2018.

As the implementing partner, OHR will work hand in hand with the Rotarians from Mfangano Mbita to achieve the following objectives:

  • Mfangano Health Network _microclinicsCreate 70 new Kanyakla groups on Mfangano Island, providing access for 15 more villages to serve up an additional 20,000 people.
  • Engage 40 community health workers to facilitate group trainings of teams on critical maternal and reproductive health issues affecting this population.
  • Graduate Kanyakla groups through an 8-session curriculum on HIV.
  • Activate a comprehensive outreach, referral and monitoring system across all villages on Mfangano Island, Kenya.

Since 2012, The Rotary Club of Ft Collins Breakfast in Colorado has worked with Organic Health Response and community leaders n Mfangano Island to improve the lives of the community’s 26,000 residents. Ft. Collins Breakfast Rotary has supported the building of the 100% solar-powered Ekialo Kiona Center (OHR’s central hub), supplied the EK demonstration farm with irrigation and tools to educate the community on agriculture, and purchased an outboard motor for the EK Emergency Boat, which today has saved hundreds of lives in times of emergency. Most importantly, these Colorado Rotarians helped mentor and support local community leaders on Mfangano to successfully establish and register the Rotary Club of Mbita Mfangano in 2015.  In a little over 2 years this club has already proven itself to be an active change maker for the communities of Mfangano Island, initiating and completing successful sanitation, health, and mobility campaigns!

We are so thankful for the work of Rotarians around the world! A big thank you to all the Rotary Clubs throughout Colorado that are supporting this project.

For more information, please contact Robinson Okeyo at okeyojnr [at] gmail [dot] com.

Local Rotary Club of Mfangano Mbita

Local Rotary Club of Mfangano Mbita

Join our Campaign: “Mfangano Tomorrow!”

Organic Health Response is proud to launch the Mfangano Tomorrow” Campaign, which will secure capital to support sustainable infrastructure and operations in Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya for generations to come.

Our impact so far:

  • Since opening the doors of the Ekialo Kiona ‘EK’ Center in 2010, Organic Health Response (OHR) has grown to support over 5,000 EK Club members; membership is based on HIV/AIDS voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), which actively combats the social stigma of the disease.
  • OHR supplies the only high-speed broadband Internet connection to the 30,000 residents of Mfangano across the longest wi-fi link in East Africa.
  • EK FM Radio East Africa’s first wind-powered radio station, and one of the only stations in the region to broadcast in Suba, one of UNESCO’s critically endangered languages. Operated by local youth, over 200,000 listeners throughout Lake Victoria enjoy quality public health, environmental and cultural programming.

The work ahead:

  • Sustainable energy sits at the core of OHR’s mission: OHR has always maintained full energy independence through its solar and wind power systems.
  • The EK Center serves as a model for other rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that hope to integrate sustainable information communication technology (ICT) and energy into their way of life.
  • However, OHR’s outdated solar and wind systems are almost a decade old: a major upgrade and expansion of our facilities is needed to support valued community programs and services.
  • Our newly designed solar and ICT systems provide access and opportunities to a new generation of innovators in Kenya who can build a sustainable future for their community.
  • If we meet our goals, we can safely reinforce and retrofit our building and tower, as well as power our computer and radio networks without technical interruptions that impede our work.
  • The EK Center is fully reliant on funding from institutional and individual donors. We aim to raise capital to implement a business and income-generating strategy to allow EK to self-sustain core operations and salaries in 2019.

Projected budget = $100,000:

Solar power systems and equipment: $30,000
ICT Services and facilities upgrade: $20,000
Start-up Capital: $50,000

For more information, please contact Kelsi Hines at khines[at]