It is a sad fact but a fact nonetheless, that neonatal and maternal mortality rates in Kenya remain disturbingly and stubbornly high despite the introduction of Universal Health Coverage, extra spending and other innovations, as recent reports have highlighted.
Kenyan children 100 times more likely to die on surgeon’s table than children from other countries
In a study published in the Anesthesiology journal (reported in the health section of the Daily Nation, October 24th) the almost unbelievable statistic was revealed that children in Kenya undergoing surgery are 100 times (yes, one hundred) more likely to die than would be the case in high-income countries.
The underlying cause of these of these horrific figures the journal suggests is the failure to use safe surgery checklists before surgery, particularly at night or over the weekend.
The study was based on information drawn from 24 hospitals over seven days on deaths of children admitted and followed over seven days.
Auditor General Nancy Guthugu’s damning report on maternal care
Meanwhile a report just released by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu looking at the launch of the Universal Health Care Coverage (UHC), has called into question the efficiency of government programmes that have seen billions of shillings spent through the Linda Mama free maternity programme on trying to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths but it seems to little effect.
The report pointed to inefficient community health services together with too few maternity wards that lack basic equipment and ‘commodities’, as contributing factors behind the high number of deaths.
The report states: “The audit has revealed despite the various initiatives by the government to improve maternal and neonatal healthcare, progress has been slow in reducing maternal and neonatal mortalities.”
Little change in the figures
Despite government efforts at national and county level the number of maternal and neonatal deaths has remained stubbornly constant.
The report announced by Gathungu suggest that mortality rates have stagnated at 409 to 588 per 100,000 live births from 2017 to 2021.
Factors behind a worsening situation
Nancy Guthugu drew attention to the “haphazard” referral system for emergency cases, inadequate funding of facilities at national and county level, as contributing factors to a worsening situation.
The report also slated community health volunteers working at the community level for not being trained, not motivated and ill-equipped to fulfil their vital role.
Kenya Forum readers might also like to read:
Maternal deaths and infant mortality in Kenya (16/2/23)
Kenya’s maternal and child healthcare dilemma (18/12/2020)
Improving maternal healthcare in Kenya (15/2/2013)