Written By:Rose Kamau/release, Posted: Tue, Nov 09, 2010
Approximately 7 900 women die annually in Kenya during pregnancy and childbirth
Kenya will on Tuesday launch its Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).
The theme of the continent-wide African-Union-initiated campaign is, "Africa Cares: No Woman should Die While Giving Life."
The campaign's objectives include building on successful efforts and what are called "best practices" to reduce maternal mortality, improve data collection and monitoring of maternal and newborn deaths, and mobilize political commitment by national authorities, civil society groups and communities.
A recent study by the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank analyzing trends in maternal mortality reduction between 1990 and 2008 shows that Kenya is one of eight countries in Africa that have made no progress in reducing maternal deaths or where maternal mortality seems to be increasing. The others are Congo, Lesotho, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
An estimated 7,900 women die each year from preventable and treatable causes during pregnancy and childbirth in Kenya, while many more suffer disabling injuries such as obstetric fistula.
In July 2010, Human Rights Watch released an in-depth study on women who narrowly escaped maternal deaths but ended up with obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that results in constant leakage of urine or feces.
The report, based on interviews with 55 women with fistula, called on the Kenyan government to improve basic reproductive health services, including access to contraceptive information and services, emergency obstetric care, and fistula surgery and reintegration services.
"This is a timely and positive move by the Kenyan government, and the challenge is to make improved services a reality for women," said Agnes Odhiambo, a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"The government can achieve the objectives of CARMMA and reduce maternal deaths by implementing the many strong policies on reproductive and maternal health that Kenya already has on paper."
The government has also been urged to re-evaluate some policies that are counter-productive to the goal of reducing maternal and newborn deaths, such as charging hospital fees for Cesarean sections and ensuring that no women or children are detained for being unable to pay hospital fees or are unable to access services because of the fees or unclear and poorly implemented fee waiver policies.
In addition, Human Rights Watch says the government should: expand family planning services; improve emergency obstetric care; address healthcare barriers for poor, illiterate and rural women; improve health system accountability; improve sexuality education, and allocate sufficient resources to reproductive and maternal health programs.
"Financial commitment is a big part of making sure that no Kenyan woman dies while giving life, so the Kenya government must be prepared to spend on women," Odhiambo said.
The CARMMA campaign was launched in May 2009 in Addis Ababa by the African Union health ministers.
So far, 23 governments have launched the campaign in collaboration with UN agencies, bilateral donors, and civil society groups.