BY HER EXCELLENCY MARGARET KENYATTA
My name is Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, a mother to three lovely children and I can say without hesitation that it is unbelievably moving to hold your healthy baby in your arms.
This knowledge, that you hold the future of your family, the community and ultimately of this nation in your hands, is priceless. Yet many women may never get this chance. For them, the experience of childbirth is one filled with fear, pain, sorrow and even death.
Should they survive the delivery, they are frightened that their baby is going to die, that their baby will not make it past the first few weeks of its life or even their first day. It breaks my heart knowing that these mothers and children do not have to suffer or die.
It would be unfair to say that nothing has been done to save Kenyan mothers and children. However, we must do more. Every birth promises a better, brighter future. As women, we hold a very strategic and powerful position.
Realizing that this change starts with me, I have launched the Beyond Zero Campaign. This campaign aims at creating awareness and raising funds to tackle issues that affect maternal and child health issues and mother to child transmission of HIV. Mothers and children are suffering and dying in our country from avoidable causes – pneumonia, malaria, diarrhoea and HIV transmitted from their mothers. This saddens me as a mother and I know that it saddens you too. Together we can make a difference!
We have all heard the numbers; every year, thousands of women die from pregnancy complications and thousands of children under the age of five die from preventable diseases. The World Bank states that out of every 100,000 live births in the developing world, 360 mothers will die, and they will never get to hold their babies.
These women are our fellow Kenyan sisters. And, out of 1,000 children under the age of five, 73 children will never make it. To give you an even grimmer picture, in 2012 alone, 100,000 children under the age of five died.
These are not just statistics, it is our fellow Kenyan sisters and children who die largely as a result of pregnancy and HIV related complications that are preventable. This campaign seeks to prevent and reduce mother to child HIV transmission and HIV related deaths, to ensure that maternal and child health care is a priority, that mothers get pre-natal and post-natal care and that we are all invested in saving lives.
To this end I have decided to challenge myself to do something that I have never done. On the 9th of March this year, I will host the inaugural First Lady’s Half Marathon. I will run to make a difference. I will run for the possibility of a healthy generation that is HIV-free, for the elimination of HIV transmission from mother to child.
I will run to raise funds to increase access to better health care through mobile clinics that will bring services closer to Kenyans. I will run to keep mothers and newborns alive. As I run, I will be thinking how every mother needs to see her children grow up and how devastating and heart breaking it is for a mother to lose her child. I will be thinking of the children left without a mother because they could not access proper health care.
I will run because I am a mother, and I believe motherhood is a blessing not just to a woman, but to a nation. I will run because every mother should be able to hold her baby and take her baby home, and that baby should live to be strong and have many more birthdays. I will run until we go Beyond Zero. No more preventable deaths of mothers and children.
I cannot do this alone. The Beyond Zero Campaign has so far raised funds for five mobile clinics. We need more. I call on you, my Kenyan brothers and sisters, my Kenyan family. I ask you to partner with me in this worthy cause, to run beside me, to be the champions of change for women and children. I know that on my own I may not be able to do much, but as a nation we can win this battle to save our mothers and children from unnecessary deaths. Even the loss of one is too much.
The greatest compliment to a nation is strong, healthy citizens. Join me in running for the survival of our mothers and children and ultimately for the health of Kenya.
So run with me; form a team; train in a group in your neighbourhood, run with your spouse, your family, your children; join me for the First Lady’s Half Marathon, 9th March 2014. We WILL win this battle.