How Uhuru’s free maternity policy has changed lives

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 07:07 |
Inside the breast milk bank at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. Photo/JOHN OCHIENG

Sometimes back, a local broadcaster did a fantastic journalistic piece on Jubilee babies. The piece explored the socioeconomic dynamics of maternity care and raising newborns.

The broader context of the piece was to explore the economic inequalities and the attendant opportunities or lack thereof 50 years after independence.

Almost ten years down the line, it would be instructive to look at what has changed in the last years. Today, the lives of many Kenyans have changed for the better and the gap between those who have access to better maternity care and those who do not has been reduced.

The ideas that many people have in mind about leadership legacy can be deceiving. Some people, especially politicians, purveyors of fake news, civil society and a few journalists have unpacked President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent State of the Nation address and framed it in their expedient perspective.

They have looked at almost everything from macro-economic lenses and forgotten the nuances that are inherent in the lives of the common people. Some have contradicted themselves by saying the idea of measuring growth using macroeconomic indicators like GDP, KRA revenues and GPD per capita are not accurate, but went ahead to criticise on the basis other macroeconomic indicators like national debt.

Whether we appreciate it now or not, the grand infrastructural projects will remain Uhuru’s legacy. For a country that has had massive infrastructural deficit since independence, the improved road network, the massive investments in sea ports, commuter railway in Nairobi and the game changing Nairobi Expressway will put us in very good stead in the next many years.

But then, it is not just about the grand investments that President Uhuru Kenyatta will be remembered for. Folks in air-conditioned offices who punch keyboards and holler about debt are oblivious about the stories of the common mwananchi.

The free maternity policy, for instance, may not be a big deal for your ivory tower sitting bloke who is worried about Kenya’s debt. What these people do not know is that millions of Kenyans who had challenges giving birth and raising families can now access maternity services for free.

Mothers and struggling fathers with young or just starting families and trying to make the best out of their meagre earnings no longer have to worry about the cost of maternity or risk going to quack midwives.

These families are growing up with the legacy of a President who changed the lives our mothers by enabling them to access maternity services.

In Nairobi, the number of health facilities has increased and unless you have been to these maternity wards, you will not understand how much has changed since the Jubilee babies piece was aired.

Now, the ivory tower guys are in these echo chambers speaking to themselves via mediated communication with little understanding of what’s going on. While they are worried about how we are going to pay the debts that Kenya is yet to default on, the same legacy that they seem critical of is changing lives now.

But they are in good company. They seem to be suffering the amnesia that comes with the weight of opulence and good living.

Not that everything has been great with this administration. But we need stories that are progressive. Stories that will constructively point out what is wrong or seem to be going wrong and offer constructive criticism and solutions.

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