Enhance maternal, child health services to sustain development


Source: The People

By Abbas Gullet


Kenya, one of the most developed economies in East and Central Africa, has demonstrated leadership in overcoming some of the major human development challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there is much work to be done on maternal and child health. Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia highlighted the challenge saying, “…15 women and 290 children die daily due to pregnancy complications that include giving birth, HIV and several curable and preventable childhood diseases.”


According to the Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, in 2011, 43.8 per cent of births were attended to by trained health personnel against a 2015 target of 90 per cent. Only 43 per cent of deliveries take place in health facilities. Contraceptive prevalence rate is at 46 per cent up from 39 per cent in 2000 against a 2015 target of 70 per cent. “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services including family planning and maternal health is a human right at the core of sustainable development.”


This key message emerged from the April 24, meeting that brought together wives of the 47 governors. “Women and girls must be at the heart of any future development policies. This is key to saving lives, advancing economic development, promoting environmental sustainability and advancing well-being, equity and social justice,” noted the meeting. mother and child continues to be the leading cause of deaths and contributes to almost 15 per cent of deaths in children and 20 per cent of maternal deaths. Estimates show 13,000 new HIV infections among children were recorded in 2012.


In the same year, over 100,000 children died before their fifth birthday. The rapidly increasing rate of HIV infections among young women between ages 15 and 24 is equally startling-with an estimated 25,000 incidents annually. AIDS, sexual and reproductive health are linked and critical for sustainable development. Stakeholders should unite to deliver promises of improving health, gender equity and human rights.

To underscore the need and support for vital services to improve maternal, newborn and health as well as to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Kenya’s First Lady launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ in Nairobi earlier this year. This high-level commitment was translated into concrete action in the form of a policy document to control HIV and promote maternal, newborn and child health.

Involving the private sector for both their resources and innovative solutions is likely to improve maternal and child health. Donors have pledged their support and Kenya’s Ministry of Health has announced a 2014 budget of USD 400 million to check HIV transmissions, reduce maternal and child death, and increase the number of skilled healthcare workers and facilities countrywide.

Women’s Representatives in Kenya’s Senate and National Assembly convened a meeting in October, last year, to improve women’s access to healthcare for non-communicable diseases. Makueni Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau, who is also a member of the ‘Kenya Network of Women Governors’ is implementing measures to educate school girls on reproductive health.

Empowering a woman benefits families, communities and countries, and leadership by women is paramount to improve maternal and health outcomes. Advancing the maternal and child health agenda requires collective action from the local and international donors, local organisations and communities. No woman should die giving life. Abbas Gullet is the Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross as well as Vice President at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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