First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has underlined the importance of good health as key to harnessing Kenya’s demographic dividend and maximising human capital investment.
Mrs Kenyatta said good health was critical in speeding up the demographic transition and improving productivity of the workforce, particularly for women and the youth.
“As such, it is critical to make strategic investments that would improve health outcomes especially in reversing trends in HIV infections amongst young people, negative consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages,” she said.
The First Lady spoke on Monday when she addressed the Harvard University Annual Leadership Forum for Education and Health Ministers in the US where she shared her experience with the Beyond Zero campaign under the theme “Catalysing the Demographic Dividend: Enabling Women and Youth”.
Mrs Kenyatta said it is essential to improve child survival by focusing on prevention of infectious diseases, boosting immunisation, improving nutrition and strengthening interventions for the first 1,000 days.
The First Lady said it was the quest to eliminate maternal and neo-natal mortality, and HIV infections among women and newborns that drove her to launch the Beyond Zero campaign, saying that the principle idea of Beyond Zero was to spur a “movement” across the country about access to quality healthcare, an issue that weighed heavily on the minds of many Kenyans.
“The idea needed an anchor – the mobile clinics, a platform and innovative fundraising methods to raise capital for implementation of the initiative across the country,” she said.
The Beyond Zero campaign has seen mobile clinics distributed to each of the 47 counties in Kenya in the last five years, taking quality healthcare services closer to communities even in the remotest parts of the country.
Why were women across Kenya (in urban and rural setting) dying while giving life? Why, for example, were children in Marsabit – Kenya’s largest county by land mass coverage – dying before celebrating their 5th birthday? How could this preventable problem be tackled and make healthcare more accessible to marginalised groups?