UN effort at reducing maternal, child mortality impressive

March 13, 2015 6:37 am


First Lady Margaret Kenyatta receives donation from Miller Foundation Kenya chairman Cecil Miller towards Beyond Zero campaign/FILE
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta receives donation from Miller Foundation Kenya chairman Cecil Miller towards Beyond Zero campaign/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – A UN initiative aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality in line with the Millennium Development Goals had yielded impressive results according to an audit.

The Every Woman Every Child initiative which brings together UN agencies, other non-profits, government and the private sector is said to have in the last five years brought down mother and child mortality in 49 focus countries that include Kenya.

“The world is currently reducing under-five and maternal deaths faster than at any time in history. If we keep up the momentum, we have a historical opportunity to eliminate preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said of these gains.

According to a report titled Saving Lives, Protecting Futures, the initiative’s success over the last five years is attributable to the organisational and financial support it has been able to rally.

“Partnership is central to the success of Every Woman Every Child. Every Woman Every Child has united all sectors, at local and global levels, in an unprecedented push, with a strong emphasis on accountability to ensure that actions and investments have impact,” Robin Gorna, Executive Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), an alliance of more than 650 organisations, testified.

The initiative has so far attracted Sh5.5 trillion in financial support from non-profits such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Islamic Development Bank, The March of Dimes and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Other organisations that have contributed to the initiative’s success include Merck, Johnson&Johnson and 63 other companies.

Government support has also been critical with Kenya, for example, providing maternal services free of charge.

Through her Beyond Zero campaign, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has also made a significant contribution.

READ: Kenya’s First Lady explains why Beyond Zero

All efforts which Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says have reduced maternal and child mortality.

“The percentage of mothers going to hospitals to deliver has gone up from 44 to 66 percent and as a result maternal mortality rate has come down by 8 percent and child mortality by 15 percent,” he said of the June 1, 2013 adoption of free maternal services in all public health facilities.

The Saving Lives, Protecting Futures report highlights, “innovative,” ideas such as one operationalised by Safaricom as part of Every Woman Every Child’s success.

“Safaricom –a major communications provider– is using one of its alert systems to remind mothers and health workers about clinic visits, immunisation schedules, delivery dates and other appointments, and helps health workers make real time clinical decisions. The system has improved both the timeliness and quality of care,” a press release on the report reads.

And as the time lines set for the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) lapse and the Sustainable Development Goals come into force, the target is no longer to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters (between 1990 and 2015) but to eliminate preventable maternal and child mortalities.

Since 1990, according to the UN, the number of children who die before their 5th birthday has been reduced by almost half and maternal mortality declined by 45 percent globally.

Despite these gains the latest, 2013, UN data shows that more than 17,000 children under 5 die daily and nearly eight hundred women died every day from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

READ: Kenya’s improved economy needs greater health investment

The majority causes of maternal and child mortality, it has been established, are preventable with access to reproductive health services and health services in general being identified as key.

And in recognition of which the First Lady, through the Beyond Zero campaign, seeks to provide a mobile health clinic to each of the 47 counties.

The Every Woman Every Child initiative, with whose objectives her campaign is in line, is part of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health launched by Ki-moon in 2010 to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.


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