, MANDERA, Kenya, Nov 6 – Twenty International Agencies including fifteen from the United Nations , the World Bank and three embassies today joined First Lady Margaret Kenyatta when she delivered the 33rd fully kitted Beyond Zero mobile clinic to Mandera County.
It was the first time that such a large number of UN agencies were accompanying the First Lady in a single event during her successful Beyond Zero campaigns that have been running since early last year and where she has already delivered 32 other mobile clinics to a similar number of counties.
Besides the UN family in Kenya, Ambassador Stefan Dejak represented the European Union while Dr Gandham Ramana represented the World Bank. The Cable News Network (CNN) also sent a whole media crew to the event.
The three other ambassadors at the function included Tarja Fernandez (Finland), Mette Knudsen (Denmark) and Johan Borgstam of Sweden.
Besides the massive support these International bodies were showing to the Beyond Zero Campaign by attending the event, majority of the agencies have running programmes in the vast county that borders both Somalia and Ethiopia.
Representatives of some of the UN organizations who spoke at the occasion praised the Beyond Zero campaign as a game-changer in the counties where the initiative has transformed the lives of vulnerable women and children in regard to maternal health and child survival.
Ambassador Dejak said the EU will continue partnering with the government in addressing maternal health and nutrition challenges in the country.
Addressing the function also attended by local political and religious leaders, the First Lady said radicalization of the youth is a legitimate and significant concern among all peace-loving Kenyans.
She however expressed optimism that radicalization, extremism and terrorism can be defeated through development, resolution of inequities and ensuring basic services and human rights for all.
“War should belong to the tragic past, to history. It should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future”, said the First Lady when she handed over the 33rd fully kitted Beyond Zero mobile clinic to Mandera County.
The First Lady lauded the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) initiative to train 30 youth entrepreneurs as part of the women and youth empowerment and peace building activities in Mandera.
She said recent incidents of general insecurity and killings in Mandera were disheartening but expressed hope that the battle against insecurity will be won through concerted efforts.
“While the incidents that happened in Mandera are heartbreaking to say the least, we must win this battle, and it can only be done by intensifying efforts to guarantee security in the region; to escalate access to health care and education; to build and improve infrastructure” said the First Lady.
She singled out women and children in Mandera as the most vulnerable groups to socio-cultural inequities that exclude them from political representation, legal protection, educational opportunities and reproductive choice
“I therefore plead with the local leadership, community and religious groups to join hands in tackling these archaic practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, under age marriages and denying the girl child right to education so as to unlock the communities’ full potential”, said the First Lady
She commended the Governor Ali Roba and his wife Mrs Hodan Ibrahim for continuously championing and implementing specific programmes to improve the status of women and girls in the county.
“As part of these efforts, I note that the Mandera County Referral Hospital has been refurbished from its formerly dilapidated state. It has emerged from the ashes into a very good hospital facility”, she added.
The First Lady however regretted that Mandera has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios of 3,795 deaths per 100,000 live births that surpass Kenya’s national average of 448 deaths per 100,000 live births.
She however said recent initiatives undertaken by the County government to address local challenges including health issues continue to register tremendous improvement.
“ Through proper use and management of this mobile clinic, we look forward to reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75% in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three- good health and wellbeing” she said
She asked Mandera residents, majority of them pastoralists, to change their lifestyles and embrace modern methods of food production and livestock rearing by adopting irrigated agriculture that guarantees food security and exports.
Earlier, the First Lady launched the Mandera Tree Planting initiative, a Kenya @50 legacy project by the National Bank of Kenya. The tree planning exercise was launched at the Mandera County Referral Hospital where she also planted a commemorative tree before visiting the local maternity wards.
She also opened the rebranded National Amanah Bank, a Division of the National Bank besides launching the First Lady’s Peace Trophy involving 16 football teams as part of championing sports for peace tournament in Mandera.