Recently, 2021 Amujae Leader, Humanitarian, Community Development Strategist, and Gubernatorial Candidate Umra Omar was featured on an episode of CNN’s African Voices Changemakers, a weekly broadcast which highlights outstanding individuals from across the continent who are driving positive change and innovation in their respective sectors.
Recognized as a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2016, Ms. Omar was highlighted again when she joined African Voices Changemakers host Arit Okpo for a conversation about the work her organization, Safari Doctors, is doing to deliver healthcare to remote communities in Kenya’s Lamu County.
Safari Doctors, a community-based social enterprise launched by Ms. Omar in 2015, was founded on the belief that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right. The organization runs mobile outreach clinics across Lamu County, with doctors traveling by land, air, and sea to deliver healthcare to rural communities. Since its inception, Safari Doctors has grown from serving 100 people a month to around 2,500. Ms. Omar explained the direction that Safari Doctors will take as the organization continues to expand its operations:
“The idea is now expanding into preventative health. So we train a cohort of community health workers…to address issues around population, health, environment, awareness; and getting into the model of mobile primary and preventative health care that comes to…the doorsteps of the communities in need.”
Engaging with local communities and tapping into “the human power in healthcare” is a factor that drives Ms. Omar’s work. To her:
“ beautiful feeling to work at home with my people, especially the younger people, and play our part in transforming our own communities and actually feeling like ’re making a difference.”
Ms. Omar’s passion for the human side of healthcare is also demonstrated by Safari Doctors’ various other on-the-ground, community-focused operations; including its youth Health Ambassadors program, which engages vulnerable youths, providing them support through peer-to-peer mentorship, and building up their awareness of health issues affecting their areas so that they can become health leaders in their own communities. Recognizing that young people can play a crucial role in the wellbeing of their communities, Ms. Omar said:
“The most critical part of our operations at Safari Doctors is investing in the young people as the agents of change that will transform the healthcare narrative that we’re dealing with.”
In addition to her work with Safari Doctors, Ms. Omar is a candidate in the 2022 Lamu gubernatorial race. She explained that young people in particular were very receptive to her as a candidate, and expressed her hopes that, by seeing someone relatively young such as herself running for office, even younger people might be able to envisage themselves in a similar position.
Before bringing the conversation to a close, Ms. Okpo asked about why women play such an important part in Ms. Omar’s work, to which she responded:
“Being a woman, being able to relate with issues that are happening, I think, are the keys to modern development…Because it’s no longer about going out in the field with a spear. We’re talking of revolutions happening in boardrooms, revolutions happening because of communication skills, because of diplomacy. And those are all very intrinsic qualities of femininity.”
You can watch the episode in full here.