Maternal and infant mortality decline in six high burden counties
Evelyn Makena @evemake_g
The number of preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality in six high burden counties has significantly reduced over the past five years, a new United Nations (UN) report finds.
Between 2015 and 2020, women who utilised antenatal services increased by over 32 per cent, while the number of women with access to skilled attendance at birth rose by 30 per cent.
Speaking during the launch of the report, Health Cabinet Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi noted that the programme has bolstered ongoing national and county initiatives on maternal and child health such as Linda Mama and the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda.
Improved outcomes are as a result of an initiative between the Government of Kenya and UN H6 partnership members comprising of UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO, UNAIDS and the World Bank.
The Sh2.2 billion collaborative initiative was implemented in Isiolo, Mandera, Lamu, Marsabit, Wajir and Migori counties that are among six out 10 high burden counties accounting for 50 per cent of maternal mortality in the country.
Despite improvements in maternal health outcomes over the past one-decade, maternal mortality is a persisting challenge in Kenya with 362 deaths occurring per every 100,000 live births.
Increased coverage of maternal and newborn care services in the six counties, including capacity building of health care workers, provision of equipment and community based advocacy efforts have contributed to the improved outcomes, according to the report.
“The programme has shown that a little investment done right and done smartly, can change health outcomes, and has motivated investments by the counties themselves in these critical areas,” said UNFPA Representative for Kenya Dr Ademola Olajide.
Access to health services has been a challenge for people in the six most affected counties due to high poverty levels.
While WHO standards require countries to have a health facility with five-kilometre radius, in most of these counties, facilities are 50-200 kilometres apart.
Counties increased their spending on health from 22 to 26 per cent between 2015 and 2020 following efforts to strengthen institutional capacity.
“The Joint Programme on Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health contributed significantly to improving access to and quality of Sexual Reproductive Health services in these counties,” she said.
Insecurity remains top barrier to the delivery of quality maternal and other health services n Mandera, Lamu and Wajir.
Socio cultural barriers have led to low utilisation of interventions such as maternal shelters and over reliance on traditional birth attendants in Marsabit and Isiolo.
Report shows that the number of women who received HIV testing and counseling during antenatal clinics increased, putting the country on course to achieving its targets to eliminate mother to child transmission. Lamu recorded the highest increase from 44 to 99 per cent.