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IMPROVING MATERNAL HEALTHCARE IN KENYA

'Home delivery which is quite common especially in the rural areas'

Maternal mortality still remains a big concern as far as healthcare in Kenya goes. Under the Millennium Development Goals for Health, the government aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters(75%) between 1990 and 2015.This currently stands at 488 per 100,000 live births, according to the last Demographic Health Survey of 2008/2009.

The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is defined as the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 births from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy.

Even though Kenya’s maternal mortality falls below the Sub-Saharan Average of 640 deaths per 100, 000, the country’s progress on the issue is still considered slow. Most maternal deaths arise from pregnancy related complications, childbirth and unsafe abortion.

Home delivery which is quite common especially in the rural areas and among the poor, is also reported to increase both maternal and child mortality rates as in most cases the procedure is carried out by ill -trained and ill-equipped midwives which increases  the chances of  being unable to deal with complications.

Among the 56% of Kenyan women who are said to deliver at home, only 40% are reported to have been assisted by a certified medical practitioner.

The government’s efforts to scale down the maternal mortality rates however cannot go unrecognized as all mothers in Kenya now have access to maternal healthcare. Mothers can attend antenatal clinics for free or for as little as sh50.

Thanks to the antenatal clinics, the HIV status of expectant mothers is ascertained early enough to protect the unborn child from getting infected with the virus in case the mother is HIV positive. The high rates of children born with HIV are believed to account for the high infant mortality rate in Kenya and that better ante-natal care has gone a great way in reducing the child mortality rates which currently stand at 74 deaths per 1,000 live births from 115 per 1,000 live births in 2003.

However, giving birth in Kenya can still be expensive, making the option of home delivery attractive. According to those who subscribe to it, is both cheaper and friendlier.

On the other hand it has become routine for mothers to be detained in Pumwani Maternity Hospital for failure to pay their bills. Some babies are actually born and even start crawling while their mothers are still in ‘detention’.

'... women with higher education are much more likely to receive antenatal care from a medical doctor..'

Presidential hopeful Martha Karua has not only visited the hospital on numerous occasions to pay bills for these women, but she has also promised to make maternal healthcare free if elected as the 4th president of Kenya. Perhaps being a woman and a mother for that matter she is more in touch with these issues than her male counterparts.

AMREF also launched an mLearning (mobile learning) project that will enable nurses and midwives to use their mobile phones to develop in their profession and keep up to date with latest medical knowledge. The countries selected for the project are Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The project was launched at the AMREF International Training Centre in Nairobi on August 28, 2012, with government officials from the three countries in attendance. The project aims to train 15,000 midwives in Sub-Saharan Africa in order to save mothers lives.

Well, those are great milestones but there is still much to be done. Improving the health system and the quality of healthcare as well as equipping the facilities will go a great way in controlling the high maternal mortality rates.

Education will also keep women informed on how best to go about pregnancy, motherhood and family planning. Research has it that women with higher education are much more likely to receive antenatal care from a medical doctor and plan their families than are those with no education.

The late Christabel talks about Dr Ouko’s return from Washington.

Sam Okello talking about Mrs Ouko

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