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County partners with NGO to foster maternal health care

Nakuru County Government is partnering with Jacaranda Health, a Non-Profit organization, to provide specialized training to health workers and community volunteers who provide maternal and neonatal critical care services in a move aimed at reducing maternal deaths and maternal death burden.

Through the partnership, nurses, midwives and community health workers are being equipped with modern competencies and skills needed to save maternal and newborn lives.

County Coordinator for Sexual Gender Based Violence Ms. Jessica Mung’ao said the partnership would be supporting the improvement of quality of care through refresher training and skill development, and mentorship of midwifery in 26 facilities targeting health providers dedicated to mothers, newborns and children.

She added that the group would be equipped with skills to sensitize the community on antenatal care, importance of hospital deliveries, appropriate post-delivery care and feeding of the newborns.

The coordinator who is also a Reproductive Health champion stated that investing in midwives and community health workers was one of the most cost-effective strategies to achieving universal sexual and reproductive health coverage and realization of reproductive rights for women.

She observed that midwives’ work was not limited to delivering babies but also providing essential antenatal and postnatal care including family planning counseling, sexually transmitted infection detection and treatment and sexual and reproductive health services.

Kenya’s midwifery workforce, added the coordinator, is fundamental to improving the quality of maternal and newborn care and ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths.

Ms. Mung’ao noted that sensitizing midwives and community health workers would foster cross-learning and sharing best global practices that would reduce death of mothers at birth, and newborns.

The coordinator further observed that the County Government’s initiatives aimed at providing affordable and quality health care had realized significant gains as maternal mortality had declined from 488 deaths per 100,000 live births to the current 362 per 100,000 live births.

According to the latest report issued by the National Council for Population Development (NCPD), Nakuru is ranked 25 out of 47 counties on prevalence of maternal mortality. In 2014 the County was ranked among the top 6 counties in the country with a high maternal death burden.

Ms. Mung’ao indicated that among the steps taken by the county government included establishment of more centers to cater for expectant women and bridging the distance gap and training of more local health staff.

The collaboration between the devolved unit and Jacaranda Health partnering with Government hospitals has further resulted in rolling out of a mobile phone app designed to improve the delivery of maternal healthcare services.

The app dubbed ‘SMS PROMTS’ and currently available for free download on the Play Store platform allows both fathers and mothers to monitor the growth of their baby week by week, from conception to childbirth and informs parents of important things like when the heart begins to beat, when the baby gets defined facial features and when they begin to move.

It also shows the changes in the mother’s body, gives nutrition guidelines using locally available foods, pregnancy safety tips and informs the mother of some of the health issues associated with pregnancy and how to deal with them.

Most importantly, the app allows pregnant women to consult a doctor from the comfort of their phones and even provides access to emergency services when needed.

According to the Regional Programs Coordinator at Jacaranda Health Robert Ouko, the trained mentors are enrolled on ‘SMS PROMTS’ platform which enables healthcare workers to interact with expectant mothers and young mothers on childbirth safety and care for their newborn babies up to the age of one year.

The most recently available data from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey estimates that 362 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births. At the current estimated annual births, this translates to over 5,000 women and girls dying due to complications of pregnancy or birth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, the global maternal mortality rate is 289,000 during pregnancy and delivery.

The report notes that providing proper maternal and delivery care at health facilities could prevent 1.3 million neonatal deaths, 531,000 still births and 113,000 maternal deaths.

United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) projects that in Africa the number of annual births is expected to increase by 14 per cent between 2019 and 2030, making the demand for health workers even greater. Barring any drastic changes, by the middle of the twenty-first century, approximately 42 per cent of all births are expected to occur in Africa.

By Esther Mwangi and Charlotte Chepkemoi


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