Let’s Live – a new health initiative to prevent the needless loss of life in Kenya

This week, America is celebrating the quests of Christopher Columbus. In 1492 the explorer set sail for Eastern Asia by heading West and despite people saying that his journey was impossible, he believed in what he was doing and took off.  The rest is history.

 US ambassador to Kenya, Jonathan Scott Gration, used the analogy of Columbus’ “can do” attitude when he described to Kenyan journalists how good leadership can make a change and can prevent needless deaths. The ambassador was addressing a Question and Answer session at Internews on the newly launched “Let’s Live” campaign.  The aim: to outline strategies and practical approaches that will halve preventable deaths in the next year, with a focus on preventing HIV related deaths, avoidable  maternal and child deaths and those deaths stemming from certain cancers and other non communicable diseases.

We have worked with the Government of Kenya and health experts to design an outcome-based approach, which can piggy-back on programs that already exist”, said Ambassador Gration. Probed on whether any new US funding would be made available to achieve the targets of halving preventable deaths, the ambassador said money was not always the solution: “There are even cases where the Kenyan government has been unable to spend all the money in its budget”, he said, sometimes it is a matter of doing things more smartly or learning from the private sector or success stories in other countries.”
Not all of this work is unchartered territory, though.  Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, set similar goals: “We must all work hard, with our hands, to save ourselves from poverty, ignorance, and disease."

More recently, Kenya committed to achieving the 8 Millennium Goals, which include many of the same objectives, by 2015. However, the country is behind target in key areas also highlighted by the “Let’s Live” campaign.  
Kenya’s health problems are not new, but the US ambassador and the Health Task Force charged with achieving these goals believe it is about dealing with them differently. Ambassador Gration urged journalists to be a part of the process, and to hold decision-makers to task when a death occurs that could have been prevented.

At the “Let’s Live” Summit, experts in the fields of Maternal Health, Child Health, HIV and High Mortality Cancers formed breakaway working groups to strategize on how to prevent unnecessary deaths. Here are their findings

“And there are also new ways for journalists to tackle this story, which is a human story, but also one in which journalists need to be able to track statistics so that they will be armed with facts when they hold authorities  accountable”, said Internews country Director, Ida Jooste. Ms Jooste pointed journalists to data posted on the Kenya Open Data Initiative, a wealth of untold stories.


At the event, Internews Health & Digital Media Project Director, Ernest Waititu, and Digital Media Specialist, Mark Irungu, presented tools which track spending and measure health trends. They illustrated hands-on ways for journalists to arm themselves with the facts to ask the right questions about why people are dying unnecessarily.