Church agency launches Kenyan maternal and child health project

By agency reporter
November 19, 2013

With funding from the European Union, UK-based churches' global development agency Christian Aid is launching a £1.2 million (Ksh170 million) maternal and child health project in Narok County, south-western Kenya, where just one in five mothers have access to a skilled midwife during childbirth.

In a region of 850,000 people, where the vast majority of pregnant mothers still rely on traditional birth attendants and an alarmingly low number (17 per cent) attend sufficient antenatal sessions, the four-year project which launches on 21 November, hopes to reach 68,000 pregnant women and 131,000 children under five.

"Maternal and infant mortality, and malnutrition levels among children under five are worryingly high in Narok country, while vaccination coverage is less than 70 per cent," says Dr John Kitui, Christian Aid’s Community Health Programme advisor.

"It is also harder to access clean water in Narok than anywhere else in the country, and the number of adequately equipped health facilities, access to which are hampered by many factors including long distances between facilities and poor road networks, is far too low to meet the increasingly high demand for such services.

"However, we believe that lives can be saved and these trends can be significantly reduced, even reversed, by ensuring that mothers-to-be understand the vital importance of skilled delivery, family planning, breastfeeding and nutrition practices, as well as through overall improvements in health services including antenatal, emergency obstetrics, neonatal and postnatal care.

"We will focus on improving the coverage of immunisation services for young children, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), improving nutrition among under-fives and pregnant women, strengthening referral systems for malnourished and sick children, and pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture on food security interventions," adds Dr Kitui.

The innovative project, to be implemented in partnership with Narok County government and four civil society organisations, aims to create sustained demand for family planning, including encouraging the participation of men and supporting more youth-friendly reproductive health services.

"As opportunities and challenges emerge as a result of the new Kenyan Constitution, we want to work with the Ministry of Health and civil society organisations to improve the health authorities’ capacity to supervise and coordinate better health services at both district and county levels," says Dr Kitui.

The launch will take place at Ewaso Ng’iro Health Centre in Narok South, and will be officiated by the Governor of Narok County, Hon Samuel Kuntai Ole Tunai.

[Ekk/3]

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