Women in Nairobi. Image Courtesy: Tom Spender on Flickr
Women in Nairobi. Image Courtesy: Tom Spender on Flickr

According to the recent statistics from the World Health Organization, at least one woman dies every minute due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth around the world. This equals almost 300 000 women ever year. A functional health system equipped with skilled personnel is key to saving women’s and children lives. Improvement of maternal health is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals as one of the essential prerequisites of development and poverty eradication. In Kenya, the maternal deaths currently stand at 488 per 100,000 deliveries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during the Madaraka Day celebrations that women will have access to free maternal services countrywide in public hospitals starting June 1st. The government made budgetary arrangements of US $50,000 for free maternity and prenatal care to mothers giving birth in public health institutions with an aim of reducing maternal and prenatal fatalities. In addition, the government also waived the US $0.25 charge for registration.

Woman in Mathare slum. Image Courtesy: Creative Commons on Flickr.
Woman in Mathare slum. Image Courtesy: Creative Commons on Flickr.

Treasury had already released US $12,500 for the first quarter, April to June, to buy additional equipment such as delivery beds and incubators. And in a Press Release dated June 1, Cabinet Secretary for Health, James Macharia says that every health centre and dispensary will be reimbursed US $32 per delivery while hospitals will receive US $62 per delivery from his ministry. The reimbursement will cover the loss of users’ fees and maternity charges faced by health centres and dispensaries. These measures are expected to promote and increase access to required services to the average Kenyan pregnant woman. They will also increase access, for all Kenyans, to primary healthcare services in government health centers and dispensaries.

The country faces several challenges towards achieving full implementation of free maternal healthcare. For example, the largest public maternity Hospital, Pumwani Hospital, requires an increase in the number of operation theaters from the current two to between about seven to cater for the growing number of women seeking delivery. In addition, many Kenyan public hospitals must improve on two essential fronts – skilled attendants at delivery and availability of essential obstetric and newborn care.

Children in Kenya. Image Courtesy: Kent Yoshimura on Flickr
Image Courtesy: Kent Yoshimura on Flickr

We echo President Uhuru Kenyatta’s words that the policy will improve maternal health as mothers who shunned away from hospitals will now be able to seek skilled care at no cost. Consequently, this will lead to a reduction in birth-related complications such as haemorrhage and obstructed labour.

We look forward to implementation of the free maternity policy and the enhancement of the reproductive health status of all Kenyans by increasing equitable access to reproductive health services.

General Comments:

  • Madaraka Day commemorates the day that Kenya attained independence from the United Kingdom. In 2013, Kenya marked the 50th Madaraka Day Celebration.
  • You can read President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech during Madaraka Day Celebrations, June 1, 2013.