Jennifer Matiku helped many pregnant women during the nurses’ strike last year. She is part of Tunza Mama intiative that seeks to offer mothers access to trained midwives
Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
In 2013, after the end of her five-year contract as a nurse trainer in Nimule Hospital in South Sudan, Jennifer Matiku, 56, came back home to spend time with her family.
But as she settled down into her new life at home, she witnessed as mothers struggled to get professional care before and after delivery.
“There are no health facilities in my area. The nearest health facility is in Ruai, which is about 30 kilometres from my village in Kamulu, and the roads are impassable during the rainy season,” says Matiku.
Proximity to health facilities, poverty, poor roads and lack of health workers in her village made the process of giving birth risky as some women delivered in the hands of unskilled birth attendants and in the end suffered prolonged labour, excessive bleeding, infections and even death.
These events changed her life, setting her on the path to become a midwife in her village. “I realised that my services as a midwife were desperately needed, and I was not going to just sit there and watch women suffer,” she says.
She sought authorisation from the Nursing Council of Kenya who certified her to start a home-based clinic.Four years down the line, Matiku has gone to heroic lengths to serve women in need.
“I travel long distances by foot, sometimes at night and other times I am woken up in the wee hours of the night to help mothers deliver. In a night, Matiku can deliver up to eight babies. I have dedicated a room in my house that is equipped with a bed, sterilisers, artery forceps, cord clamp, gloves, scissors, stitching equipment, cotton wool, among other basic equipment for delivery,” she says.
Matiku rarely takes time off from her busy schedule of attending to patients, but she says nothing gives her more satisfaction than seeing mothers give birth safely.
The highlight of her service was last year when nurses went on a five-month long strike. Matiku says she helped over 100 women safely deliver their babies after they were turned away from hospitals.
“Of the 100-plus women that I delivered, six delivered twins and I am proud to say that there was no single fatal case,” she smiles. She charges between Sh3,500 and 4,500 per delivery.
It is for this reason that Matiku could not hide her excitement as she followed through the events of her midwifery graduation held last Friday at the Amref International University.
“It had been almost 30 years since graduating from nursing school, this course has refreshed and empowered me to perform my duties with more confidence,” she says.
Matiku was among more than 100 caregivers from Nairobi and Kisii counties who graduated through Kenya Innovative and Sustainable Solutions for Midwives Education and Employment (KISSMEE) programme, a project of the Amref International University.
They are the pioneers of a new web-based service dubbed Tunza Mama, a perinatal education and support service that trains and empowers entrepreneurial nurse-midwives before deploying them as independent caregivers to offer modern and innovative, quality care services to mothers and children.
Amref Health Africa Group CEO Githinji Gitahi says Tunza Mama addresses the modern needs of mother care.“Modernised antenatal and post-natal care is a fast growing preferred service among middle-class women. Currently, the service is packaged as a very lavish option. Tunza Mama will make it easier for women looking for personal and convenient care to access it at a pocket-friendly cost,” he says.
Women looking for caregivers will make requests through the Tunza Mama website where the caregivers’ profiles and services offered will be displayed.
The caregivers on the platform are all graduates of the Professional Development Course in Entrepreneurship and Business Skills in Applied Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition offered by the Amref International University.
“We started this programme to fulfil a need that we saw existed in the country, we found out that there were no services that offer women personalised care throughout their pregnancy and after they give birth, many women have been turning to social media, friends and relatives to get help that should come from trained caregivers,” said Priscilla Ngunchu, the project manager.