The dream of every pregnant woman is to give birth to a healthy baby that will live to celebrate many birthdays. However, more often than not, some mothers in Kenya never live to achieve this dream as they die while giving birth ushering the innocent babies into a motherless world. In extremes cases both the mother and the child lose their lives adding to the worrying statistics of maternal and child mortality in the country.
It is estimated that 6,000 women in the country die yearly during childbirth, with 488 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Subsequently 100, 000 children according to the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health 2013 Update Report, never live to celebrate their fifth birthday due preventable causes.
Mary Mutuku, a resident of Makueni knows too well the pain of losing a child. It’s only this February that she lost her baby boy at a Machakos hospital after delivery. The 28- year old is yet to come to terms with the loss of her first-born child who she had named Noel.
Her pregnancy had progressed well and though she had planned to deliver at the Makueni County Referral Hospital, she later changed her mind and went to the neighboring Machakos County.
“I felt the county referral hospital was ill equipped and that is the reason I went to a private hospital in Machakos only for me to lose the baby after a normal delivery.
Mary blames the death of her baby to negligence of the medical staff and believes that her son died due to suffocation.
“My son was born health but suffocated at the nursery,” she says.
Kyalo Wolile, also a resident was widowed in 2002 after his wife died while giving birth to their third born child at the referral hospital. She bled profusely during delivery and eventually died and so did the newborn.
Wolile has been left to fend for his two daughters and life has never been the same again. He has now taken to drinking to drown his sorrows and from his looks it’s evident that his wife’s death has taken a toll on him.
“My wife’s death has affected every aspect of my life, I have never remarried and I wish she was still around to help me with the girls,” he says.
It is for these reasons that the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta launched the Beyond Zero Campaign initiative to improve the maternal and child healthcare and avert such deaths.
The campaign launched in 2014 also aims to eliminate new HIV infections among children. The initiative has also seen the first lady roll out mobile clinics that will provide integrated HIV, maternal and child health outreach services in the country. So far 30 counties have received the mobile clinics.
Last week Makueni County received the 30th mobile clinic in a colorful ceremony that was graced by the first lady, Governor Kivutha Kibwana among other senior government officials from both the county and national governments.
The county despite the wrangling between the governor and Members of the County Assembly has made major strides in improvement of health care and especially maternal services. For the last two years, the percentage of women who deliver in the hospital has increased from 21 to 53 percent, three points higher of the national rating that stands at 50.
Health Executive Dr.Andrew Mulwa attributes the performance to massive sensitization on the need for women to give birth at the hospitals under the care of skilled medical personnel.
Dr. Mulwa says the department has recruited the help of 106 community health workers across the country to ensure that all pregnant women access antenatal care.
“We use the community health workers to mobilize women to deliver in health facilities hence averting maternal related complications that sometimes lead to death,” says Dr. Mulwa.
The health executive also notes that HIV transmission from mother to child has drastically reduced for the last three years.
He says in 2013 out of 1042 women who tested positive 938 gave birth to HIV free babies while in 2014 of the 1011 infected pregnant women 948 did not infect their babies a scenario also replicated in 2015, where out of 728 HIV positive mothers 687 gave birth to HIV free babies.
Mary Malonza, HIV positive mother is a living testimony that the HIV mother to child transmission can be eliminated.
She turned positive six years ago and despite her condition, with the help of the medical staff at the county referral gave birth to a healthy baby boy now aged five.
She urges fellow women to give birth in hospitals and not to shy away form declaring their HIV status.
“I delivered at the hospital and now my baby is healthy,” said Ms. Malonza.
The improvement of maternal health services in Makueni County is an indication that access to quality health care to mothers and children is possible. Such efforts complimented by the first lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign noble initiative can help accelerate the attainment of HIV, maternal and child health targets. However, to achieve this goal, there is need for enhanced collaboration among health stakeholders both at the county and national level.