Kenya has a serious shortage of health workers, with only 1 doctor, nurse, or midwife for every 1,000 people. This is less than half the minimum number recommended by the World Health Organization. Kenya’s growing population puts a further strain on the health workforce, which has a detrimental impact on the delivery of quality health services.

In order for the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to address current staffing shortages and plan for the future, the country must significantly increase the number of graduates from its health professional schools. And unless there is a sufficient pool of qualified, well-trained health professionals, universal access to health care—a vision set forth in the Kenyan constitution—will not be realized.

To help students and their families meet the financial burden associated with medical training and to help reduce provider shortages, IntraHealth International’s FUNZOKenya project partnered with the Higher Education Loans Board, the Kenya Healthcare Federation, and other stakeholders in the private and public sectors to establish a new loan program.

The Afya Elimu Fund aims to provide a sustainable funding mechanism for health workers training in the country. Students apply for a loan to cover their tuition fees, and can receive a maximum of 70,000 Kenya Shillings ($767) a year.

No interest is charged during their time in school. On completion of their studies, students are given a one-year grace period before they start paying back their loans at an interest rate of 4% (compared to 12.5% market interest rates in Kenya). The repayments revolve back into the fund as a continuing resource for future students.