NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo on Tuesday directed public health centres countrywide to release all women who have been detained for failing to pay maternity fees.
The Minister reiterated an earlier government directive issued in May 2007 waiving all maternity fees in public hospitals and said the health institutions should adhere to the orders.
“Any institution that holds the mother who has given birth because they cannot pay are doing it illegally. They must stop holding mothers and babies who are born,” she said during the launch of a Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA) in Nairobi.
Mrs Mugo said it was the government’s policy that delivery is free in all public hospitals.
The Minister also criticised public hospitals who forced newborn babies to stay in dehumanising conditions because their mothers could not afford to clear their bills.
“No health facility should keep a baby sleeping on the floor because the mother cannot pay,” she said.
She said the government was committed to ensuring that more women access delivery services to reduce maternal mortality rates in the country.
First Lady Lucy Kibaki who was represented by Special Progammes Minister Esther Murugi urged women to seek medical attention to ensure they deliver safely and also save their newborn babies.
“I urge women to take responsibility over their well being and that of their children by seeking ante-natal and post-natal care. Women should also seek the services of skilled birth attendants,” she said.
The First Lady also advised mothers to breastfeed their children and observe proper nutrition.
She expressed concern that many women and children were dying at birth which was a major setback to achieving the millennium development goal of reducing maternal mortality by 2015.
Mrs Kibaki asked young women to desist from procuring abortions and to avoid lifestyles that exposed them to grave risks such as infertility and HIV/AIDS.
On her part, Ms Murugi urged men to join the struggle of reducing deaths of children and mothers during birth by supporting programmes aimed at strengthening health institutions.
She also urged them to support their wives and daughters especially those in rural areas to access skilled delivery services at health centres.
She said it was unfortunate that women were still giving birth in their houses assisted by unqualified attendants which contributed to high mortality rates of mothers and children.
Mrs Mugo said the campaign to reduce maternal mortality would be launched in about 10 other constituencies to create awareness on family planning, importance of giving birth using qualified birth attendants and also call for development of safe delivery centres.
CARMMA is an African Union Commission (AUC) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) initiative intended to promote renewed implementation of the Maputo Plan of Action for reducing maternal mortality in Africa.
Last year, AUC indicated that by 2019, there will be 2.5 million maternal deaths, another 2.5 million child deaths and 49 million maternal disabilities in Africa alone if no urgent action will be taken.