, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 29 – Kenya is still grappling with high maternal and child mortality rates, with at least 8,000 mothers dying annually despite the problem being preventable.
Reproductive Health Technical Advisor Dr Gathari Ndirangu said on Friday that the number of mothers dying during pregnancy, child birth and immediately after delivery due to complications that arise was still unacceptably high.
He said although the country had made significant progress in the last 10 years to reduce maternal mortality from 590 out of 100,000 live births to 488, it was still far from the Millennium Development Goals target of 147 maternal deaths of 100,000 live births.
“Those are huge numbers and it’s really a very big tragedy when women continue to die from causes that are preventable,” he said.
Maternal mortality is defined as a death which occurred when a woman is pregnant at any period during pregnancy or following child birth up to one and a half month of child birth.
“One of the reasons that cause these maternal deaths is the fact that women do not deliver under skilled care, meaning a health care provider who has been trained to provide ante natal services, child birth and post natal care after delivery,” Dr Ndirangu explained.
In an interview with Capital News, he said that it was advisable for women to attend ante natal care as soon as they knew they were pregnant. It is also important for women to ensure that they delivered under skilled care in a healthcare facility.
“Traditional birth attendants are not skilled care providers so delivery under them has contributed immensely to the loss of lives of women,” he pointed out.
Dr Ndirangu said that although 90 percent of pregnant women attended ante-natal care, only 40 percent delivered under skilled health care providers and this had been a big contributor to maternal deaths.
“The common reasons why women are still delivering at home are ignorance on the risks involved when they deliver outside of hospital, economic ability and transportation,” he stated.
He said that use of family planning methods would help in reducing maternal deaths because it would reduce frequent pregnancies which were a common cause for maternal mortality.
“The best spacing between pregnancies is three years because it allows the body to have recovered from the effects of the previous pregnancy and the appropriate time to stop child birth is the age of 35,” he advised.
He said that maternal deaths also contributed highly to child mortality and cited North Eastern, Nyanza and parts of Rift Valley regions as the most affected in terms of maternal and child mortality.
“What is sad is that most of these deaths involve new born babies who are about a month old and we call them neonatal deaths which consist about 60 percent of infant deaths,” he said.
“And quite often when a mother dies, children are at a very high risk of dying. In fact when a mother dies, a child who is aged less than five years is 10 times more likely to die than a child whose mother is still alive,” Dr Ndirangu added.