Despite some progress made by the Millenium Goals, Kenya's maternal mortality rate of 510 deaths per 100,000 live births remains among the highest in the world. In fact according to a recent CNN article, Kenya is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be pregnant
A number of factors contribute to this situation:
- barriers to access including distance to hospital and prohibitive cost to travel
- low use of prenatal care services (only 50% of women attend even 1 prenatal care visit)
- high rates of home deliveries (up to 83% in rural areas)
But perhaps the most disturbing revelation is the impact of female genital mutilation (FGM) on maternal & neonatal health outcomes. Specifically FGM results in babies dying from asphyxia due to obstructions at the vaginal wall, and unfortunately most local providers are not properly trained in managing this complication.
So what are we doing about this?
Saving Mothers is pleased to announce our collaboration with the West Pokot Ministry of Health to address this problem. Together we have developed a Maternal Continuum of Care program designed to promote facility based prenatal care-seeking and increase the number of hospital deliveries. We also recently incorporated family planning into our continuum, offering free post partum IUD placement for women who deliver at the hospital.
Provider training is an essential element of our program. Our medical team travels to Kenya 2-3 times per year for pro bono surgical missions to correct birth-related complications such as fistula and incontinence, and we capitalize on this opportunity to train local providers on clinical protocols and surgical procedures, including those required to facilitate deliveries for patients with female genital mutilation (FGM). Another critical aspect of this collaboration involves piloting a low-tech preterm birth indicator in this population. We are very excited about this study, as the ability to predict preterm birth would enable providers to triage at-risk patients and ensure that they receive appropriate care: care which is essential to survival of the newborn.
And we have gotten results
Our Maternal Continuum of Care Program was launched in West Pokot in early 2015. Since that time it is estimated:
Prenatal Care Visits have increased by 15%
Hospital Deliveries have increased by 20%
Neonatal Deaths have decreased by 25%