Kenya began its strides towards the Millennium Development Goal 5 (improve maternal health) which set the targets of reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent (MDG 5a) and achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015 (MDG 5b), through the abolishment of the maternity fee and introduction of Free Maternal Care Programme in public hospitals in 2013. Despite significant declines, MDG 5a is yet to be fully realized. Looking beyond 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals offer a renewed opportunity to see improvements in maternal health for all women, in all counties, under all circumstances.
The Health Policy Department introduced the Linda Mama Boresha Jamii Initiative to help fast-track the MDG 5a to reduce maternal mortality ratio and provide universal access to universal reproductive health, and contribute to the country’s progress towards Universal Health Care.
Access and quality
True to its meaning, the programme aims at improving access and quality of maternal, new born and child healthcare services in the country as well as attainment of health goals as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 3 and 10 related to poverty, good health/wellbeing and reduction of inequalities. The benefit package includes both outpatient and inpatient services for the mother and newborn for a period of one year and it will include Antenatal Care, Delivery, Postnatal Care and Emergency referrals for pregnancy related conditions as well as complications.
What the flagship programme managed to achieve was making Kenya the only country to have met 4 out 5 WHO nutritional goals by 2015Quite interesting to note is that Kenya is under a devolved system of government and while the National government handles health policy, promotion of primary healthcare falls squarely on the hands of county governments.
I am not surprised that one of the first counties to roll out a dedicated campaign in support of the initiative is one led by a woman governor in a county that is in dire need of socio-economic and environmental transformation.
Leading the way
Kirinyaga County, a largely rural county led by female governor Ms Anne Mumbi Waiguru has put emphasis on dignifying the lives of the common mwananchi populace and starting right at the beginning, that is maternal and child health.
The ongoing high gear registration drive for the Linda Mama Initiative for all eligible women is a huge step towards attaining sustainable healthcare reforms. Other reforms projected in the county include expanding bed capacity at the county referral hospital from 250 to 500 beds, building a world class diagnostic centre and availing maternal and child health services in all centers in the county.
Most families in Kenya are said to be a sick relative away from poverty. If you cannot afford private health cover or worse- you are not enrolled to the NHIF scheme- then you are a sitting duck as far as healthcare is concerned.
While Kenyans living in the cities are insulated from the struggles of their fellow country men especially on matters health, the plight of women and children in the rural areas cannot be overemphasised.
Between accessibility to health centres, affordability of health services, and, quality diagnosis and treatment, these woman have their chances of successful pregnancies so narrowed that losing a child under five or developing childbirth complications is the norm rather than the exception.
The real battle against poverty will be fought in the health sector. In Kirinyaga, the leadership has shown that it understands this and knows the need to pay attention to maternal and child health.
Keen to transform the lives of the people, the county is developing a sessional paper- a first of its kind thus setting the pace for others.
But then they win my heart when they embark on a crusade to fight for; to transform and to empower fellow women.
Ms Mbarire is a Nominated MP