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Jacaranda Health banks on Cynthia Kahumbura to drive sustainability, operations


 Cynthia Kahumbura has been appointed Co-Executive Director of Jacaranda Health. [Courtesy]

Cynthia Kahumbura has been appointed a Co-Executive Director of Jacaranda Health.

Kahumbura whose appointment takes effect immediately will serve alongside Nick Pearson and Sathy Rajasekharan.

She steps up from her previous role of Country Director between 2022/24 period to lead the scale, sustainability and execution of programs and operations across the country.

Ms Kahumbura joined Jacaranda as Director of Operations in March 2020, amid the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over her four years, she has played a pivotal role in advancing the organisation’s scale trajectory from 100 plus facilities in five counties in 2020, to over 1,300 facilities across 22 counties, and three countries in 2024.

The facility said Kahumbura’s promotion to Co-Executive Director reflects its new strategic positioning as a global organisation while affirming a continued emphasis on scaling nationally in Kenya.

“The country went into lockdown in my first week at this facility. I had the hard task of figuring out how to build meaningful relationships remotely. Although indisputably tough, the lockdown catalysed an instant passion for the work. Innovations that would long outlive the pandemic like tele-triaging and digital learning for nurses were emerging to cater for the growing crisis,” she said.

According to her, one of her biggest goals is to ensure every mum and baby receives quality care in Kenya and beyond.

“This means aligning with and driving forward the national Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda, and ensuring our programs are adopted within the wider health system not just for today, but in years to come,” she said.

Kahumbura strongly advocates for the inclusion of women’s voices in health system improvements and the UHC agenda, not only in health leadership, but also by ensuring mothers have a say on the services they receive, and that their feedback translates to action at the county level.

“We have the privilege at Jacaranda of giving people who wouldn’t otherwise have a voice in the health system a channel to influence decisions right at the top,” she said adding, “It is what drives me every day.”

Alongside deepening impact in Kenya, Kahumbura will focus on putting the right people and processes in place to ensure the continued scale, sustainability and execution of Jacaranda’s Kenya operations and - critically responsible, effective solutions for mothers and babies.

Her focus will be on maintaining an internal culture of innovation, integrity, and ‘working smarter while setting a standard for excellence in the processes and systems that underpin our projects and programs.

“What is special about Jacaranda is its culture. Everyone has a voice, and the right to have their ideas heard and tested. We’re proud of our local teams where people can grow, including myself,” she said.

Since she joined the team, it has grown from 45 to 100 plus but maintained a true on-the-ground presence.

About 95 per cent of Jacaranda’s staff are based in Kenya, with five new Ghanaian recruits to spearhead operations in Ghana. 70 per cent of the management team are women.

Amidst an increasingly busy schedule, in busy moments, Kahumbura comes back to her belief in the mission and the human stories that communicate the facility’s impact on the ground.

“I get so energised hearing stories from our field team...... stories like a frontline nurse being trained on postpartum hemorrhage one week and then saving a life the next, or how a mother’s feedback via PROMPTS led to real-life improvements in a certain facility. It inspires me every day,” she noted.

Nick Pearson, Founder and Co-Executive Director said Kahumbura’s leadership and vision has taken Jacaranda from strength to strength, building a team and systems capable of operating at a national scale while increasing the reach of their programs by five-fold.

“She has positioned Jacaranda as a trusted partner for dozens of county governments. We are excited to formalise her executive leadership, as an equal partner and steward of Jacaranda's ambitious mission to improve pregnancy journeys for all Kenyan mothers,” said Pearson.

His sentiments are echoed by Sathy Rajasekharan who says over her time, Kahumbura has shown dedication, innovative ideas, and a remarkable skill set that has driven their scale and impact as an organisation.

“We are excited for her to step into her new role, which will give her the flexibility to help shape the future, ambitious direction of Jacaranda - as we seek to expand our support for mothers and babies across the continent,” said Rajasekharan, who is also a Co-Executive Director.

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