Political Priority to Curb Maternal and Infant Mortality
By Shiko Msa
When a mother is expecting a baby, she’s excited and looking forward to the miracle of safely carrying and bringing a life into the world. A little human being that she made and carried for 9 months. She’s looking forward to raising this little person and moulding them into a successful responsible adult. And not just her. A baby is a family and society affair and we must do everything we can to have them brought into the world safely.
It is therefore heart wrenching when a mother’s dreams are shattered by the death of her infant at or around birth. It is a blow to her family and to society if it is the mother herself who dies during child birth.
These two scenarios, sad as they are, are quite common in our country. The statistics for maternal and infant health issues are sobering. A 2014 survey by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey for example indicated that we’re losing 22 mothers and 111 infants a day to complications arising from pregnancy and birth. Majority of these deaths are preventable and therefore totally unnecessary.
Women are losing their lives every day for lack of basic medical care and this is in direct contravention of their basic human rights as enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution. Article 43 gives every Kenyan the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to healthcare services, including reproductive health care.
Further statistics indicate that thousands of children across the country are left to grow up without mothers due to maternal mortality. These numbers obviously highlight a severe problem, and the need to close the glaring gap in provision of maternity health services.
What is Government doing about it?
Granted, Government has recognized the problem and is offering free maternity care for mothers giving birth in public hospitals. But the benefits of this laudable development have been marred by long and incessant strikes by medical staff in endless tussles with Government. The NHIF card covers part payment for normal deliveries and emergency CS but not all women can afford the monthly premiums for NHIF. So yes, the problem of maternal and infant mortality still stands.
What can we as citizens do about it?
By the power of our votes, we can push for the political goodwill to start chipping away at this problem as we match towards Vision 2030 which aims to reduce maternal mortality by two thirds by then.
Towards this, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, MamaYe and OAYouth are running a campaign to urge all political aspirants to have safe motherhood as a priority in their agendas. To set aside enough resources, manpower and logistics to provide quality healthcare for mothers and infants. The campaign urges Kenyans to only vote for this kind of leader and to hold them accountable after they’ve been elected.
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood is a body that unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. MamaYe is an organization with a vision to make sure that Africa’s mothers and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth. OAYouth works to inspire, unify and empower local youth in the development agenda.
What can you as an individual do about it?
Ask questions to those aspiring to lead and vote wisely. Are political aspirants both at local and national level prioritizing this very crucial cause? Is it anywhere in their radar as they move around asking for votes? As they speak of upgrading roads and building CDF markets, are our aspirants thinking about our human pillars of society? Yes, mothers are pillars and infants are the future. Women play a most important role in nurturing of societies and holding them together into functioning communities. We do not want them broken hearted, distressed or worst of all dead. For without mothers, who will bring forth the future generations?