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First Lady reaffirms commitment to enhancing access to maternal healthcare

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with Ruth Punyua (2nd R); a fistula champion during the AMREF Fistula Challenge Golf Tournament Award ceremony. Also present was Cabinet Secretary for Health, Sicily Kariuki/PSCU

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has reaffirmed her commitment to ensuring mothers have access to antenatal care and skilled deliveries so as to eliminate obstetric fistula and maternal morbidity.

 The First Lady called for concerted efforts to ensure women, especially those living in marginalised or hard to reach parts of the country receive quality maternal healthcare.

“Maternal health is an area that remains close to my heart. I want to ensure that mothers get access to antenatal care and skilled deliveries so that their lives are not put at risk,” the First Lady said.

 The First Lady spoke last night at the Karen Golf and Country Club in Nairobi during the closing ceremony of the 2019 African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Health Africa’s Fistula Challenge Golf tournament.

The tournament helped to raise Sh2 million that will be used to meet the cost of reconstructive surgery for women living with complications caused by obstetric fistula.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta noted that although maternal morbidity and obstetric fistula are preventable, the two health conditions have continued to be a major challenge to women due to lack of access to proper care during delivery.

“The two conditions have devastating consequences on childbirth. They are also a stark example of health inequity in the world,” she said.

The First Lady pointed out that the two conditions are most prevalent in rural areas and that is why she initiated programmes aimed at providing screening and surgical repairs for women with reproductive health challenges.

Acknowledging that the country has made great strides in the health sector, the First Lady regretted that over 600,000 women in rural areas continue to give birth at home annually.

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The First Lady at the same time urged Kenyans to embrace physical exercises as a way of promoting healthy living and curbing non-communicable diseases.

“It is also a sure way of protecting ourselves against the emerging upsurge of diseases such as Cancer, Heart diseases, Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases,” the First Lady said.

The winner of this year’s AMREF Health Africa Fistula Challenge Golf tournament was Tom Simba while Norah Njeri took the second position.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki who also spoke at the event said obstetric fistula is a painful and shameful condition that continues to deny women and girls their rightful position in society.

The CS commended the First Lady for her efforts in tackling health issues facing women by partnering with stakeholders to eliminate some of the most dehumanising health challenges.

“Fistula has continued to deny women and girls economic, social and political empowerment. In our modern day, one would liken obstetric fistula with leprosy of the past where those who suffered from it were shunned and treated as outcasts, where all hope was lost and the future was not promised,” the CS said.

Vice Chair of the Board of AMREF Health Africa, Paul Kasimu said over 2,400 women experience obstetric fistula condition every year in Kenya and called for more stakeholders to come out and partner with the foundation to eliminate the health condition.

Other speakers included AMREF Health Africa country Director Dr Meshack Ndirangu and Ruth Punyua, a fistula champion who benefitted from Beyond Zero Medical safaris camp held in Narok County.

Punyua thanked the First lady saying through the Narok Beyond Zero Medical camp, over 24 women received treatment and have now fully recovered from fistula.

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