Increase investments for better maternal health in Kenya

As we mark this year’s World Health Day with the theme ‘Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere’, we reflect on global efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage and what this means for the Kenya population.

On World Health Day we have an opportunity to reflect, review and analyze Kenya’s performance towards improving maternal and newborn health and whether the achievements equally reach all the section of the population. Globally efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage have gained momentum and no one is willing to be left behind. The right to the highest attainable standard of health is constitutionally enshrined and should be guaranteed to every Kenyan.

The right to the highest attainable standard of health is constitutionally enshrined and should be guaranteed to every Kenyan. One area of Universal Health Coverage that is coming under increased scrutiny is the access to family planning. The ability to plan a family is often correlated with better health and economic outcomes. Access to the methods needed to achieve this is not universal. Women and girls of reproductive age should therefore not feel marginalized or left out.

Improving access to family planning

While Kenya has been internationally applauded for its efforts to improve the family planning prevalence rate, there are still stark differences in family planning use depending on location (55% in rural areas compared to 65% in urban areas). These geographic differences in levels of use often reflect disparities in access, with facilities in rural areas often having lower stock levels of family planning consumables and / or the price of these commodities being unaffordable to rural populations who often have lower levels of income.

More lives of mothers and young girls can be saved if we bridge the gap and improve access to contraception for rural women. Increased uptake of family planning results to in fewer deaths of women and children. Such actions empower women and girls to realize their full potential. A report by the National Council for Population and Development released in 2016 shows how 13 counties in rural Kenya are struggling with the high burden of maternal mortality higher than the national ratio. On World Health Day today, more focus should be on these counties, we can’t leave them behind.

According to the World Health Organization, Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio is estimated at 510 per 100,000 live births. Reducing maternal mortality to achieve the global target of 70 per 100,000 live births will greatly accelerate developing countries like Kenya to realize Sustainable Development Goal 3 - ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. Arguably, better health outcomes can propel economic growth for any country. Kenya therefore should continue to press for progress to save the lives of thousands of women and girls at the risk of maternal mortality.

What should be done for the Health sector in Kenya

Our biggest opportunity to call for increased funding in the health sector has presented itself. Today, on World Health Day, we are happy that among the ‘big four’ development agenda laid out by the Kenyan President, Universal Health Coverage was one of those. Over the next five years, the government aims to guarantee access to quality and affordable health care to all Kenyans – a huge increase from the country’s current population coverage of 36%. Our responsibility is to engage, seek support and commitments during the budget making process and both national and county level.

On World Health Day, E4A-Mama Ye celebrates it as an opportunity to improve and shape Kenya’s health sector. We shall continue to work with other stakeholders towards to ensure mothers survive every pregnancy and childbirth. Through this work, we will harness partnerships with policy makers within the national and county governments to create champions for increased resource allocation in the RMNCAH programme and family planning.

We call upon those leaders who directly participate in the development and approval of national and county budgets to make health care accessible and affordable to everyone including woman and girls everywhere across our 47 counties. This will be the biggest investments for better and improved economic dividend!

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