KNCHR to probe reproductive health violations

April 20, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) will conduct public hearings across the country in response to increasing concerns with the status of reproductive health and the violations on citizens\’ rights to quality health care.

The KNCHR has received several reports of deteriorating standards of reproductive health care in government hospitals, clinics and health centres as well as private hospitals and institutions.

"In 2009 we received a complaint from Pumwani Maternity Hospital regarding certain abuses regarding reproductive health. On further investigations we saw that the issue was bigger than just the one pertaining to Pumwani," said KNCHR Commissioner Abdulkadir Noormohamed.

The Commission said reports reveal systemic violations of human rights.  Some cases involved still births, kidnapping of new born babies, unnecessary medical procedures performed on women and detention of women after delivery for non-payment of delivery fees.

According to the KNCHR, the government controls almost half of all health facilities in the country.

The Commission argues that the government has consequently failed on several occasions to take responsibility for the reproductive health of its citizens.

A joint report by the Centre for Reproductive Rights and FIDA Kenya, disclosed discrepancies in government-run hospitals such as understaffing, the imposition of user fees, congestion, lack of basic supplies such as anaesthesia, gloves, syringes, surgical blades, soap, and bed linen.

As a result of such conditions, the KNCHR reported that 56 percent of Kenyan women in the slums and the rural areas decide to deliver in their homes instead of health facilities.

KNCHR Commissioner Winifred Lichuma said the Commission plans to go to several rural communities where individuals rarely have opportunity to voice their cases, but in order for the hearings in these areas to be effective they must address the cultural barriers.

"When you go into the communities some people do not see sexual and reproductive health rights as rights. The strategy we hope to use to get around the cultural barriers is male involvement. In most of our cultures most decisions are made by men, so we will not make attempt to talk to the women alone because we will not solve the problem," said Ms Lichuma.

The KNCHR hopes the hearings will eventually help establish legal and policy framework for sexual and reproductive health rights in Kenya.

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