A Richmond-based charity which supports thousands of women in rural Kenya to give birth safely has been given a funding boost to help train more volunteers to save lives.

Friends of Kipkelion, in Richmond-upon-Thames, is one of the charities which has been given support from the Department for International Development (DFID) for a new project to provide vital access to antenatal care to 6,000 women in one of Kenya’s most remote regions – Kipkelion.

Pregnant women in Kipkelion find it hard to access the support they need because the region is so remote with few clinics and little public transport. Most people in Kipkelion are subsistence farmers, so while they have access to food, they are often lacking in other basic health services.

The £50,000 provided by the DFID as part of their Small Charities Challenge Fund will help train local volunteers in basic maternal health in 16 separate villages across Kipkelion.

These volunteers will monitor expectant mothers in their own village, liaise with the clinics regularly by phone and ensure any problems are addressed as soon as possible. After birth, the volunteers will encourage mothers to have their babies immunised and keep mothers and babies healthy, reducing infant mortality.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “Helping others in need is at the heart of our national culture as can be seen by the work of small charities up and down the country. The Small Charities Challenge Fund is a great way of providing support to smaller organisations the UK that make a big difference helping people in some of the poorest parts of the world.

“This project is no different, and I am delighted we are able to help Friends of Kipkelion expand their life-saving work which will transform the lives of thousands of women and babies.”

Friends of Kipkelion has already done a huge amount of trailblazing work in the region. Run entirely by volunteers, including their chairman, Michael Deriaz, who quit his job in the city five years ago to set up the charity, they have helped the 250,000-strong population in numerous ways, including funding basic infrastructure and training over 100 people to help eradicate Female Genital Mutilation.

All the projects funded by Friends of Kipkelion are delivered in partnership with the local community, with the support and expertise of UK volunteers who have developed strong links in the area and are aware of the most pressing needs.

Chairman of Friends of Kipkelion, Michael Deriaz, said: “We are delighted with the funding from the Government’s Small Charities Challenge Fund which will enable us to support thousands of women and their babies in Kipkelion. This work is vital as infant mortality is still far too high. Every new mother should have the right to the antenatal care they deserve, and every child the right to the immunisations which keep them healthy.

“We are looking forward to working with the team from the Department for International Development as we transform the lives of thousands of people in Kipkelion.”

The Small Charities Challenge fund, set up in 2017, has awarded 16 British charities, including Friends of Kipkelion, grants totalling over £750,000 in its first round of funding. Each charity can apply for a grant of up to £50,000.

Further grants will be handed out in the coming two years, out of a total pot of £4million. The fund was set up after a DFID Civil Society review found it was hard for small UK charities to access DFID funding because of the length and complexity of the application process.