My name is Lucy Wambui Kaigutha the Founder and CEO of Toto Care Box Africa Trust. This is an organization that aims to reduce maternal and newborn deaths through education and incentives.
Have we met?
I am a fun loving person committed to seeking and delivering proven life-saving innovations that can benefit and save lives of the most vulnerable groups of our society. My work seeks to improve the quality of, and access to, high impact maternal and child health services. We target the vulnerable in the community at primary and referral health facilities in select fragile regions.
I did my undergrad in The University of Greenwich in South London. I studied Bachelor of Science in Public Health. After I graduated, I moved up north where I attended the University of Sheffield and did my Masters in Public Health International Development.
Later, I managed to find employment there where I worked for 2 years. Upon coming back to Kenya, I found it very difficult to find employment. It was really depressing considering all the qualifications I had.
Great minds discuss ideas.
In 2012, I was working as a Public Health Researcher collecting data in integrated management of childhood illnesses. One mother really stood out to me. The followups were at a household level so I went to visit her. She had 5 kids, the youngest barely 2 weeks old. At the same time, she lived in extreme poverty. Memories of this visit stayed with me long after.
Toto Care Box is a concept that is new in Kenya but not new in the world. The Box was first started in Finland just after the 2nd World War. They have used the box to help reduce maternal and infant mortality rates by offering it to every mother who gives birth. In 2015, I stumbled upon an article talking about the same and that’s where the idea took root.
Generally, inequalities in health care lead to inequities in maternal and newborn care outcomes. This is why Toto Care Box was birthed in July 2016. It is a newborn care incentive package that is saving lives by reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in Kenya.
I roped in 3 of my friends who also believed in my vision to start this initiative. Our first donation was actually from my mother! With other donations we got, we managed to kit up 5 boxes.
Not here to be average.
The box addresses cultural barriers related to seeking and accessing maternal and newborn health services. It incentivizes behavior change and enhances new born care at household level. Before a mother receives a Toto Care Box, she has to attend at least 4 antenatal care visits in addition to delivering in a health facility.
The Toto Care Box is a simple public health intervention. It is a first portable, comfortable and safe bed for a newborn. The Box comes with 18 essential, low cost, high impact items aimed at reducing the four major causes of death of newborns i.e. Malaria, Neonatal sepsis (cord infections), Diarrhea and Hypothermia that leads to pneumonia. These are the leading causes of death of newborns from sub-Saharan Africa.
~Where we work.
Firstly, we map out an economically disadvantaged area. After this, we partner with health facilities where the local women deliver. We currently run the program in 3 sites:
- Mukuru Kayaba,
- Mukuru kwa Ruben and
The beneficiaries of Toto Care Box program are needy pregnant women and their vulnerable newborns. We believe that every newborn should have dignified start to life.
Every newborn should have a dignified start to life.
Not only have we given 2258 boxes to date but also impacted more than 4,000 lives with the life saving newborn boxes and community maternal newborn health education.
Toto Care Box has improved health facility delivery by 58% and antenatal care (maternal and newborn health services utilization) by 124%.
In order for us to give as many lifesaving newborn survival kits, we sell beautiful Moses baskets to the high- end market. For every Moses basket we sell, a percentage goes towards outfitting a Toto Care Box for a vulnerable mum and her newborn. Toto Care Box provides a platform where mothers from high and medium social classes get an opportunity to give back and they absolutely love it!
Toto Care Box provides a platform where mothers from high and medium social classes get an opportunity to give back.
On the whole, we are mainly struggling with digital marketing. We want our product out there thus are trying to figure out that space.
The kapus- Moses Baskets.
As with any charitable organisation, we are always looking for funding. So in 2017, we took part in a competition called The County Innovation Challenge Fund. We had to come up with an innovation to reduce maternal and newborn mortality rate in specific counties chosen by the committee.
One of the counties chosen was Turkana which has a very high maternal and newborn mortality rate. So, when we went there, we took the Toto Care Box which had become popular in Nairobi. We thought for sure it would be a great fit. When we tried to pitch the box to the mothers there, they refused stating that first off, the box looked like a coffin!
Most of the women there were weaving and making such beautiful baskets. That’s when we got the idea of putting the items from the box in the baskets they were weaving. We did just that and they loved it.
When we come back to compete, we brought back the Kapu- the raw Moses basket and presented it to the panel but sadly we didn’t win the award.
The Value of a moment.
The very first Kapu we made in July 2017 must be our favourite crafting memory.
After the competition mentioned above, we went back to the office. While we were just chilling, we wondered what if? We got a raw Moses basket and after a lot of deliberating and suggestions, we decided to spice it up with beautiful Ankara fabric and a gorgeous wooden stand. We were super delighted when we sold our first Toto Care Kapu in 2 weeks of making it! To date we have sold over 200 of the Moses Baskets.
Toto Care Box is fantastic because we empower a group of fantastic, driven and talented crafters. To begin, we get the raw baskets from some women in Turkana. When they get here, our seamstress Lillian Odhiambo does the trimming and sewing of the Ankara fabric onto the Kapus. Once she’s done, Zablon, our carpenter, then fashions a stand for it. For the crochet blankets, we source them from a group of women called The Gospel Sisters. We really love them and they are amazing! Not only do they do gorgeous work but their labour is also quite affordable. The mothers especially love these crochet blankets as they later on become heirlooms.
Planning is everything.
We work with marginalized mothers. Toto Care Box is very passionate about maternal and newborn health innovations, particularly ones that reduce deaths while ensuring the dignity and care of vulnerable newborns.
Currently, we are exploring ways we can expand our product line. These include using baby friendly cotton fabric with baby designs for the Moses baskets, making cot bumpers and baby laundry baskets using Ankara fabric. Apart from this, we are also thinking of African themed baby nurseries.
All in all...
We absolutely love our African culture. Our goal is to provide African, affordable and practical baby products. It is imperative that we support social enterprises making a difference in the world.
Disclaimer: All photos and data provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article, are from Lucy Wambui Kaigutha of Toto Care Box.