The Government of Kenya and the United States launched the Afya Elimu Fund (AEF), a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative aimed at providing low interest loans to cover tuition fees for needy students in medical training colleges.

Speaking at the Fund’s official launch on behalf of Deputy President William Ruto, Cabinet Secretary for Education Dr. Fred Matiang’i said the shortage of health workers in the country remains a major obstacle to delivery of universal healthcare. He emphasized the role of public and private sector partnerships to address such challenges and called on more private sector organizations to support the fund to help train the desired number of health workers.

 Established in 2013 with seed funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Fund supports training for mid-level health workers, including nurses, laboratory technologists, nutritionists and clinical officers. To date, the AEF has raised over KES 500 million and supported 9,000 students.

Unaffordable education fees are one of the key factors hindering training of new health workers in Kenya. The World Health Organization recommends each country have 23 health workers for every 10,000 population; currently, Kenya has only 15 health workers per 10,000. It is projected that for Kenya to attain the desired ratio of health workers to population, it must double the annual production of new health workers. With additional partnerships, the AEF hopes to increase the total funding to KES 1.5 billion and support 20,000 students by 2017.

At the launch, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec noted the importance of public-private partnership, and the fund’s long-term benefits for health and employment of young people, saying, “The initiative represented here today … is an outstanding example of synergy and partnership. By helping students access and continue their education without disruption, and go on to graduate and gain employment, the Afya Elimu revolving loan fund will deliver health-focused social benefits across the entire country for years to come.”

The main contributors to the Fund are the Ministry of Education through the Higher Education Loan Board, USAID, and the Ministry of Health. Other contributors to the fund are IntraHealth International, the Family Group Foundation, I&M Bank, and the Rattansi Educational Trust.