Safari Doctors - Securing Healthcare for Marginalized Communities in Remote Areas
This project supported by iF is a prime example of promoting health and well-being in marginalized communities. In 2019, Safari Doctors was honored with the iF Social Impact Prize.
Following the worst terror attack in modern history in Lamu (Kenya), that killed more than 100 people in 2015, Safari Doctors was founded by humanitarian Umra Omar and her team. The social enterprise’s mission is to bring free medical aid to marginalized communities in the remote area near the border with Somalia. “ Our team is super motivated because this is our home, and we are simply serving our community. Solutions for us by us. The team is very committed because the impact of their passion is measured in real-time and is not abstract,” says Umra.
Born in Kenya and educated around the world, Umra is a globally recognized public figure known for pushing the limits to navigate identity politics and make a difference by disrupting oppressive status quo paradigms despite the security risks involved. She currenty lives in Lamu, Kenya.
To access the archipelago of Lamu - specifically the indigenous Aweer and Bajuni communities - medical supplies are delivered mostly by boat. Each month, around 2000 patients receive crucial healthcare in this way. Umra says about the motivation to take on such a mission: “We are motivated by the strong rapport with the communities that we have built over the years. People look forward to and appreciate our services. From the young to the old, people and even animals. The journey is priceless.”
In recognition of her and her team’s work, Umra has received numerous awards. She has been named CNN Hero, African Leader for Change and most recently United Nations Real Life Hero. About the iF Social Impact Prize 2019, Umra says: “ Winning the iF Social Impact Prize was one of the most memorable and worthwhile achievements. It allowed two of our very hardworking staff to have a unique professional experience and connect with new friends and ideas in the Netherlands.”
Summing up her philosophy for Safari Doctors, Umra says, “health access is a right, not a luxury.” Through her work, she hopes to convey the important message that the colonial, centralized service delivery models need to change in order to reach rural communities. “We have seen this happen in the financial sector through revolutions like that of Mpesa in Kenya. We need to see this fully realized in healthcare by investing in infrastructure and community health workers. We need to do the same in education through innovation and valuing our educators.”
Questioned about the COVID-19 outbreak, Umra says: “The coronavirus pandemic brought out the best of us. We were forced to restructure our outreaches by becoming more self sufficient and bringing medical staff on board instead of relying on volunteer medics. We established a medical center that allows us to offer services throughout the month as opposed to one-week outreaches. Most rewarding was seeing the team step up to sensitize and mobilize rural communities to the realities of COVID-19 and what needs to be done.”
What’s next for Sarafi Doctors? “The iF Social Impact Prize has allowed us to strengthen our institutional structures to realize our strategic plan, which will be renewed by the end of 2021.” Umra’s goal is to establish a “holistic universal healthcare model” focusing on young people as community health workers. Besides Safari Doctors, Umra herself will be the first and youngest woman to run for Governor of Lamu County – to make the world a better place by taking care of the local community first.