Pregnancy continues to carry with it a high risk of death for both mother and child in some parts of the world and especially in the developing world.
Sub-Saharan Africa is now the epicentre of maternal mortality in the world. Current trends indicate that despite global, regional and national policies to improve Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) being in place, countries like Kenya are yet to attain their targets particularly for MDGs 4 and 5 to decrease child and maternal mortality.
Samburu County of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, is no different. With a maternal mortality rate of 1000/100,000 births and an under-five child mortality rate approximated at 142/1,000 live births, nearly one third of the population has inadequate access to health, water and education services, as well as livelihood opportunities.
With funding from the European Union (EU), AMREF, in partnership with Samburu Aid in Africa (SAIDIA) the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MoPHS) and Ministry of Medical Services (MoMS) has launched a project, Strengthening Community Health Systems to Improve Maternal Newborn and Child Health Outcomes in Samburu County, that aims to contribute to poverty reduction in Samburu County, by accelerating the attainment of national and Millennium Development Goals MDG 4 (child health) and MDG 5 (maternal health) targets by 2015 by strengthening the linkages between the community health system and the formal health system.
AMREF and partners recognize that the greatest barrier to good health among poor communities in Kenya is the separation of communities from the formal health systems, combined with the low capacity and poor quality of the peripheral health systems. To bridge this gap and bring health closer to the people, the project proposes sustainable, innovative, pro-poor and community-based interventions that will link Samburu communities with the formal health systems in line with the Community Health Strategy.
Speaking at the launch of the project at Kisima Dispensary Grounds in Samburu on November 18, 2011, AMREF Kenya Country Office Director Dr Lennie Bazira Kyomuhangi highlighted the fact that there are many disparities when it comes to health care in Samburu that need to be addressed. “Samburu has more than double the national average of maternal deaths and infant mortality and this is saddening. Childbirth should be a time of celebration for mothers and not to a time to mourn.”
Factors that predispose the people of Samburu to poor health include: high levels of malnutrition, poor access to and utilisation of MNCH services by women and children, low literacy levels, severely under-resourced health facilities and poor infrastructure among others.
Dr Kyomuhangi emphasised the fact that AMREF, in partnership with the government, implementing partners such as SAIDIA, the EU and the community, would work hand in hand to ensure that they touch the lives of more than 200,000 people living in Samburu. “Our main target is women and children and with this new project, we hope to improve the skills of health workers through training.” She assured the community that AMREF has the support of the donor community (which translated to availability of funds), its partners and the community, and therefore positive change was inevitable.
AMREF’s Director of Programme Development, Dr Rumishael Shoo reiterated AMREF’s commitment to improving the health of women and children by ensuring that mothers have adequate facilities where they can give birth and reduce infant and maternal deaths that occur as a result of complications at birth.
Also speaking at the launch, Mr Daniel Plas, Head of Social Affairs and Environment at the European Union (EU) Delegation to Kenya said, “We anticipate that after four years, we shall see progress in maternal and child health. I also hope that there will be less practice of FGM, better nourished children and fewer deaths as a result of complications at childbirth.”
Other guests present at the launch were Allyce Kureyia, SAIDIA Director; Marie Pedersen Haug, Health Sector, Environment and Natural Resource Management Officer at DANIDA, government representatives from the provincial administration represented by the area District Officer John Muchiri, a representative from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, Maureen Atieno representing the AMREF Kenya Advisory Council and members of AMREF Kenya’s Senior Management team.
The project will directly benefit 45,000 women of reproductive age and 25,000 children under- five years through improved Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) health outcomes.