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Saving the African Child

Jane Nyaboke is 24, is expectant. Her eyes glitter with joy as she shares about her pregnancy. She though turns into a somber mood as she remembers her first pregnancy.

She was four months pregnant when she had developed complications. With minimal knowledge on antenatal care, she never sought medical help, except for a few herbs she mixed and drank to ease her pain. The mixture did not help her and she lost her pregnancy few weeks later.

Now in her fourth month of pregnancy, Nyaboke says she has regularly attended the neonatal clinic at Nyanchwa health facility religiously.

“Thanks to the advice received from the home doctors on the importance of neonatal care for me and my child, I attend the clinic every two weeks for regular checkups”. Says Nyaboke referring to the CHWs at Kemera, Nyamira county.

In Kenya, especially in the rural areas, many women deliver at home and rarely see a trained healthcare provider before or after the baby’s birth.

“ANC programs should be made expansive to include men too, and not just women”, says Nyamira county Health Promotional officer Mr. Charles O. Mogakah.

He adds that whilst programs on ANC are targeted on women only, men too play a critical role in ensuring that their wives attend the antenatal clinics and thus programs should encompass the entire community.

In a 2014 report by the WHO, “Levels and trends in child mortality”, about 2.8 million babies died within the first month of life.

For every 1000 live births in Kenya, 74 children will die before reaching their fifth birthday according to the Kenya Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan (KHSSPI) July 2012- June 2018.

Whist progress has been made compared to 1990 where 98 children died for every 1000 live births the mortality rate still remains high, a factor attributed to mothers giving birth at home or not attending the antenatal clinic after birth.

Despite the governments introduction of Free Maternal health care their still remains a huge gap in the number of women who attend the neonatal clinics.

It is estimated that half of the deaths that occur within a month of a child’s life occur on the first day of their lives are mainly due to lack of access to proper health services for mothers during delivery.

“Communities lack knowledge and are sometimes arrogant on matters of health.” Says, Dennis Ngoge, Manga Community Health Extension.

Sentiments shared by Mogakah, who also says that whilst the ministry has the manpower, they lack resources to implement the programs to get to the most vulnerable of communities.

Whist commending the work done by KeNAAM in training of CHWs and the work being done by other health stakeholders, Mr. Mogakah says there is need for more collaborated efforts for improvement of health within the rural health sector.

Ending child deaths from preventable infectious diseases is critical thus strong advances in fighting childhood diseases, infectious diseases—which are most often diseases of the poor and thus are a marker of equity—remains a highly prevalent cause.

As Kenya seeks to get to 35 deaths per 1000 live births by 2018 as envisioned in the KHSSPI report, lots need to be done to ensure cases such as Jane Nyaboke’s remain a distant history.

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