Peter Navario, PhD, MPH
2021 was a year of reflection, resilience and growth for HealthRight. We rolled out a new three-year strategic plan in which we redouble our efforts in the places where we are most needed and on the issues where will have the most impact. Over the next three years we will grow our programs within the 5 countries where we operate, and across four intersectional health issues that disproportionately affect marginalized communities: HIV, Mental Health, Violence, and RMNCAH.
HealthRight also welcomed a new Board Chair, as after six years of exemplary leadership and service, Tracey Edwards' term came to an end. She has been succeeded by Raffaella D'Angiolino-Bush, a long-serving Board member and former Chair of the Development Committee. In addition, HealthRight launched an Associate Board in order to engage young professionals in our work and establish a pipeline for our Board of Directors. After a very successful inaugural year, the 5 founding members have nearly doubled the size of the group, with plans to reach 12 members in the coming year.
Also this year, HealthRight was awarded the highest rating by the three main nonprofit assessment organizations, a testament to HealthRight’s probity, effectiveness and transparency.
But at the center of HealthRight's work and impact are our 200+ staff members whose resilience, expertise and commitment ensured marginalized communities accessed life-saving health care, despite the difficulties imposed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In this report, you will read just a few of their amazing success stories.
Thanks to the efforts of an ever-growing community of supporters, HealthRight linked 200,000 of the most vulnerable individuals in the world to healthcare in 2021. And we will reach still more in 2022.
Dr. Peter Navario
Expand equitable access to quality health systems for marginalized communities.
The gap in health outcomes between marginalized populations and the general population is eliminated.
We advance the well-being of marginalized women, children, and adolescents through programming in these priority areas:
Violence, gender inequity, stigma, and substance use are common drivers of the HIV epidemic. In partnership with communities, we create holistic, integrated programs for HIV prevention, treatment, and wellness that address the structural challenges that impede care.
We help communities prevent and recover from violence through capacity building, early intervention with at-risk groups, and assistance for survivors of violence. Recovery efforts include medical, psychosocial, and mental health services to improve the health and well-being, social links, and resiliency of people affected by violence.
HealthRight’s Peter C. Alderman Program for Global Mental Health (PCAP) oversees organizational capacity building as well as client-centered, human-rights-based mental health and psychosocial support programs provided by community health workers and caregivers. In post-conflict countries, less than 10% of people in need have mental health care access. More people in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from mental health issues than HIV/AIDS and TB combined.
In October 2021, residents of Nairobi's Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums were forcibly evicted from the land they lived on. During the eviction, bulldozers flattened dwellings, completely destroying furniture and other family possessions. Thousands of people were expelled from their homes and had nowhere to go. Eunice Kibutu, a Community Health Volunteer working as an educator for HealthRight’s Perinatal Mental Health project, was one of those directly affected. “During the demolitions, many families were going through a lot, from starvation, displacement, and lack of a roof at night,” explains Eunice.
In 2021, in order to improve access to mental health services in informal settlements, we trained 28 CHVs from Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Ruben and Mathare North sites on the mhGAP Community Toolkit, a guide that provides practical information and necessary tools for community providers to promote mental health, prevent mental health conditions, and expand access to mental health services. In just six months, CHVs reached more than 3,000 mothers with community dialogues, community and household mental health talks, and referral services to health facilities.
Eunice is a mother of two, a businesswoman, and one of our most ardent CHVs. “Before my tenure as a CHV I didn’t even know that there is something like mental health, all I knew was that people go mad because they are cursed, or they overused drugs,” she said. Eunice is proud of her achievements as a CHV, helping pregnant women and mothers improve their mental health, and says that the mhGAP training also helped her work on her own mental health.
CHVs like Eunice are critical for creating connection and cohesion in communities like Nairobi’s informal settlements. After the demolitions left many families homeless, the CHVs and their communities were able to care for each other and rebuild together.
Through the skills that we learnt, we were able to support each other and those who were depressed due to loss of their homes.
After Natalia’s second pregnancy, her mother refused to accept another child into the already crowded home – a 1-bedroom apartment shared by five people. With no resources or support, Natalia had no other choice than to leave her newborn daughter in the care of the maternity hospital. Desperate to find a way to keep her baby, she turned to HealthRight’s Service Center for help. The Service Center helped Natalia through the legal process to recover her daughter from the hospital and provided her with a place to stay in HealthRight Halfway House.
Still, Natalia faced anxiety and depression about taking care of her new daughter, and didn’t have the support from her family nor the ability to live independently. With the help of therapy and counseling, Natalia was able to regain her confidence and attempted to reconnect with her family. Unfortunately, they still refused to accept Natalia’s daughter or provide any help.
A lawyer at the Service Center helped Natalia gather all the documentation and apply for the social services she would need to raise her daughter on her own. However, shortly after “graduating” from the Halfway House, she met a man who was happy to adopt her two children, and they married and lived together in Kyiv. The children went to school, and Natalia and her husband both had jobs – until the COVID lockdowns led to widespread unemployment. During this difficult time, they received humanitarian aid from the Service Center and Halfway House, including food, clothes, and school supplies, to tide them over until they could find work again.
Natalia’s story represents the ultimate goal of our Service Center and Halfway House: ensuring that families can remain together and that children are raised in a loving home.
MD is 42 years old and lives in the Nwoya District in Northern Uganda. When he was 19, MD was abducted from his home by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA forced him to participate in abductions, lootings, fights, and to harm others. During his captivity, he worried for his mother who remained back home. Two years after being abducted, MD was able to escape and ran back to his village to reunite with his family. MD‘s life was normal again and he even got married.
The respite was short-lived, however, as the LRA attacked the village again two years later and recognized him. In retribution for deserting, the LRA rebels mutilated MD’s body with machetes and left him to die. Although the villagers brought him to the hospital where doctors saved his life, he was never able to heal completely.
His wounds started to grow keloids on his neck, ear, chest and back, which made him unable to turn his neck and released smelly fluids. Even sunshine caused itching and pain, and most nights he could not sleep. “I felt like some heavy hand was strangling my neck and tying my neck every day,” MD described. He was unable to work to support his six children, and was ostracized by members of his community – young children would run away, scared of his appearance. His wife could no longer bear the burden of his disability and left with their two daughters, leaving MD with their sons.
MD began to isolate and fell into a depression, only leaving his home to collect pain killers at the health center. He was struggling with suicidal thoughts when one of HealthRight’s Village Health Teams visited him and told him about our TFV Project. MD began his treatment by working with a counselor, who helped him regain his self-worth and build up confidence and hope. Then in April 2021, 18 years after the attack, MD attended the TFV surgical clinic where doctors assessed his growth and treated it right away, free of charge. “The day I was injected with medications at the hospital I felt like the heavy hand that was squeezing my neck was slowing releasing my neck and the next morning, the neck was totally freed.”
I’m very happy, I can now turn my neck after many years. Friends now visit my home freely and sleep is no longer a problem
30-year-old Alma* fled Honduras to escape the ruthless violence of her partner, Daniel.* For more than five years, Daniel physically and sexually assaulted Alma. He even threatened to kill Alma, and one day followed through on his threats by shooting her. Alma survived, and told the police what happened but they took no action. To this day, the bullet remains lodged in her body, serving as a constant reminder of the years of abuse and violence she experienced.
At Alma’s asylum hearing in 2016, her attorney presented the Judge with evidence attesting to the lasting mental health impacts of Alma’s experiences in Honduras, including expert testimony from a HealthRight-trained volunteer psychologist. However, during the hearing, Alma had trouble recalling the order of events of her experiences, leading the Judge to question her credibility and postpone her hearing.
Five years later, Alma finally got her next day in court. This time, her attorney presented a follow-up evaluation by a HealthRight-trained social worker, which showed that the lapses in Alma’s memory were not a credibility issue but rather a reaction to her trauma. Thanks to the tireless efforts of all involved, the Judge granted Alma asylum. Alma is immensely relieved to stay in the United States, where she feels there are laws to protect people like her. She hopes one day to get the bullet removed, and looks forward to continuing to raise her two children and work in healthcare.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality.
Visit of Representatives from US Embassy and UNICEF to Halfway House in UkraineOn September 3, representatives from UNICEF, USAID, and the US Embassy in Ukraine visited our Mobile Teams, who provide social and psychological assistance to the survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in Eastern Ukraine. They discussed the challenges of COVID-19 and the teams’ corresponding adaptation and growth. Our 12 mobile teams in Donetsk and Luhansk responded to an average of 250 cases of domestic and gender-based violence per month, providing more than 11,000 phone and video consultations in the summer of 2021. The shift to remote services has especially benefited children, with a 63% increase in the proportion of children who received remote support, compared to 2020. Our Mobile Teams are organized in partnership with UNICEF with financial support from USAID.
2021 Peter C. Alderman Health + Human Rights AwardsOn May 27, we gathered online at the 2021 Peter C. Alderman Health + Human Rights Awards. , who provide social and psychological assistance to the survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in Eastern Ukraine. They discussed the challenges of COVID-19 and the teams’ corresponding adaptation and growth. Our 12 mobile teams in Donetsk and Luhansk responded to an average of 250 cases of domestic and gender-based violence per month, providing more than 11,000 phone and video consultations in the summer of 2021. The shift to remote services has especially benefited children, with a 63% increase in the proportion of children who received remote support, compared to 2020. Our Mobile Teams are organized in partnership with UNICEF with financial support from USAID.
10 Lives 10 Stories Award On December 15, 2021, HealthRight was chosen as one of the ten winners of of Breakthrough ACTION’s 10 Lives, 10 Stories, One Message competition, which shared compelling human-interest stories that demonstrate the power of social and behavior change to improve reproductive health. HealthRight’s story highlighted our community-based reproductive rights work in rural Kenya where, in partnership with Population Services Kenya, we have been ensuring inclusive access to long-acting reversible contraception, especially for women with disabilities. The work we conduct does not just connect women with vital family planning services, but it strengthens the health care system to sustainably improve respectful maternity care.
This year, HealthRight welcomed a new Chair of the Board of Directors, as Tracey Edwards ended her term after six years of exemplary leadership and service. We are incredibly grateful for Tracey’s guidance, and glad that she will remain on the HealthRight Board. Tracey has been succeeded by Raffaella D'Angiolino-Bush, a long-serving Board member and former Chair of the Development Committee, who joined the Board of HealthRight to pursue her interest in Global Health and Social Medicine. We are incredibly grateful for Tracey’s guidance, and glad that she will remain on the HealthRight Board. We are thrilled to welcome Raffaella to this new role!