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First Lady Margaret invites African colleagues for Beyond Zero Marathon


First Lady Margaret Kenyatta celebrates after completing a past Beyond Zero Marathon. /COURTESY

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Wednesday invited her colleagues from African countries to participate in the fourth edition of the Beyond Zero Marathon in Nairobi on March 10.

She is optimistic that the cash raised will help scale up the provision of health services to vulnerable women, children and the youth in Kenya.

Margaret thanked the private and public sectors as well as ordinary Kenyans for supporting her work.

“This work is done through direct support from partners in the public and private sectors and also support from ordinary citizens who mobilise resources by running with me in the Beyond Zero Marathons,” she said.

She spoke in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 22nd Ordinary General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).

She co-chaired the forum in her capacity as Vice President of OAFLA together with Burkina Faso First Lady Adjoavi Sika Kabore, who is the president of the organisation.

Margaret said Kenya is at a full-scale implementation of the Point of Care Technology for early infant HIV diagnosis.

“This has accelerated the diagnosis to less than 24 hours, leading to early initiation of treatment and improved follow up for mothers and their children,” she said.

The name of the first ladies’ organisation was officially changed from the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS to the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD).

The logo was unveiled and the strategic plan for 2019-2023 launched.

First ladies collectively pledged to help eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as other campaigns that OAFLAD has prioritised in previous strategic plans such as ending child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

“As national champion, have advocated for increased resources to scale up programmes for the attainment of less than five per cent mother-to-child HIV transmission rate in readiness for the World Health Organization validation,” she said.

“We have scaled up our work in advocacy by supporting initiatives that accelerate policies centred on mother and child health,” the First Lady said.

The implementation of the second strategic framework of the Beyond Zero Initiative that was launched in March 2018. It includes the Beyond Zero Medical Safaris, which is a new and innovative approach of delivering health services.

During a medical safari, service providers are concentrated in one location to provide integrated health services among them HIV testing; cervical, breast and prostate cancer screening; and screening for physical and intellectual challenges for children and young people.

“So, far we have impacted over 10,000 people and will continue to work throughout the country over the next year,” She said.

Madam Kabore said that the change of the organisation’s name marked a new beginning that heralded more commitment to serving vulnerable groups.

Ethiopia’s First Lady Zinash Tayachew urged the first ladies to embrace the spirit of love and care as they carry out their work of improving the welfare of vulnerable people.

Other First Ladies who shared their work in promoting health and the wellbeing of communities included Isaura Nyusi (Mozambique), Auxillia Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe), Monica Geingos (Namibia) and Denise Nkurunziza (Burundi).

Neo Masisi (Botswana), Fatoumata Bah Barrow (the Gambia), and Rebecca Akufo-Addo (Ghana) also spoke.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the first ladies committed to advocating for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable persons on the continent with renewed vigour.