Kenya

Child mortality rate up by 20pc

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By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI

Posted Sunday, December 18 2011 at 00:00

Kenya’s child mortality rate has gone up by 21 per cent over the past one year while maternal deaths have risen by a similar margin, a signal that the billions of dollars being pumped into the health sector are yet to bear fruit.

Maternal mortality went up 18 per cent, new statistics released by World Health Organisation show, linking this to low access to contraceptives and poor healthcare.

WHO says Kenya could reduce these deaths by up to one-third with adequate investments.

Data shows that the number of child mortality has gone up from 105 deaths per 1,000 live births to 128 deaths, while that of maternal mortality has increased from 488 to 580 per 100,000 live births.

While the figures remain below the regional Sub-Saharan African averages, they are still high and reflect very slow progress in improving health outcomes for the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and MDGs 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health) targets by 2015.

Kenya targets to reduce under five child mortality to 33 per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality ratio to 147 per 100,000 live births by the year 2015. According to Akpaka Kalu, the WHO medical officer for East Africa, the leading causes of maternal deaths in the country are heamorrhage (bleeding), hypertension and infection.

“These are mainly caused by delays to seek healthcare, delays to reach a health unit/facility and lack of specialised healthcare during pregnancy or delivery,” said Dr Kalu.

Approximately half of the maternal deaths occur around the time of delivery up to 72 hours.

Although stillbirths were strongly linked to maternal health, they were not recorded or discussed in health policies, making them largely invisible.

The under five child deaths in Kenya are caused by medical illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and HIV/Aids — diseases which are preventable.

“One in every two children deaths occurs in the first year of their life and one in three of these deaths occur in the first week of their life,” said Dr Kalu.

“The critical care women and newborns need is therefore around the time of childbirth and soon after and the greatest challenge is the increased demand for services and failure to provide the services by the government.”

According to Dr Kalu, 15 per cent of pregnant women may develop life threatening complications, which often arise without warning.

UN estimates show that, globally, 7.6 million children under the age of five and 358,000 women die every year due to pneumonia and diarrhoea.

The Director of Medical Services, Francis Kimani, said the Kenyan government was committed to reducing the maternal and child mortality rates by 2015.

Low-cost and high pay off interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets, hygiene and sanitation, as well as immunisation, are some of the efforts the government had put in place to meet the MDGs on maternal and child health.

“The government has recruited and deployed an additional 20,000 primary healthcare workers and established and operationalised 210 primary health facilities to provide maternal and child health services,” said Dr Kimani.

To track down progress in maternal, newborn and child survival, the Inter Parliamentary Union, the global organisation of parliaments, has adopted legal frameworks to address gender inequality and promote reproductive rights by improving access to quality care and medicines among poor and marginalised populations.

“Under the auspices of the IPU, the global parliamentary community has made its commitment to contribute to the last push to ensure the achievement of health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015 by assisting national parliaments to contribute to this global effort,” said Martin Chungong, the Director of the Programme for the Promotion of Democracy at the IPU.