Simple solutions tilt the scale in marginalised areas

Wahinya Henry and Faith Gachobe @PeopleDailyKe

A simple decision to offer women a culturally-accepted place to give birth is making a huge impact in reducing maternal deaths in Samburu county.

A mud-walled maternity ward at Loroki health facility, 45 kilometres from Maralal, is encouraging women who still hold culture dear to come to the centre to give birth. The ward is a model of a typical Samburu homestead. Here, mothers deliver in line with cultural practices.

“The only difference is that women are given professional services to save both the child and the mother,” says nurse Antonella Leakono. In the county, the doctor per population ratio is 1:70,000 people. Public Health Officer John Osir says more women now turn up to deliver at established medical facilities as opposed to giving birth at home, thanks to trainings and awareness. The mud-walled maternity ward is not just confined to Loroki.

In Barsaloi, Elizabeth Nonguta lies in a makeshift traditional Samburu maternity ward as a traditional birth attendant massages her tummy.

Akai Asigeny, a nurse in charge of the facility, admits that although the number of women who deliver at the hospital is still low, more mothers are visiting following trainings carried out by the centre in conjunction with a consortium comprising of M-Pesa Foundation, Amref Health Africa and PharmAcess Organisation.

In Nairobi’s Kangemi, the provision of medical equipment is making all the difference at St Joseph the Worker Dispensary. Thirty-year-old Caroline Viligwa, a mother of two, narrates how she had a hard time delivering her first child because of health complications.

Although she declines to name the hospital where she delivered, she terms it as the worst experience of her life. For her second baby, now one-month-old, she chose St Joseph and everything was smooth.

Anne Mumbi, 27, has been going to St Joseph for both antenatal and postnatal clinics. Since the dispensary was equipped, the administrator Sister Magdalene Mwaura says they have seen an increase in the number of antenatal visits they receive. In a month, the dispensary is able to attend to at least 200 mothers, who pay a small fee for services.

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