By Mutahi Kagwe
International Women’s Day, 8th March, every year is a time when we celebrate women; our mothers, wives, sisters, aunties, nieces and colleagues. We celebrate their achievements and act towards improving their lives.
This year, we are marking the day under the global theme #‘choose to challenge’. It aims to capture the need for us all to explore solutions to the challenges that women face.
In reflecting on the Health Care challenges that are very specific to women, we are acutely aware that many factors affect women’s access to health care, especially during childbirth. We still loose too many women due to preventable causes during pregnancy and child birth. While the global average of maternal mortality is 211 per 100,000; Kenya’s maternal mortality is on average 342 per 100,000 (WHO 2017).
It has been stated that “no woman should die while giving life”. The Ministry of Health has over the last 5 years put in place policy measures to ensure that women are protected during pregnancy and child-birth. To address financial constraints of accessing health care, the Linda Mama Programme provides a valuable safety net.
In addition to these measures, the Ministry is aware that Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) or excessive bleeding after childbirth is the leading cause of maternal mortality, accounting for more than 35% of all our maternal deaths. Availability of adequate and safe blood for every mother, at their point of need is therefore essential in keeping mothers alive.
I have in the past expressed my commitment to ensuring availability of safe blood and blood products across Kenya. During this International Women’s Day, I reaffirm this commitment by ensuring that we keep mothers alive. I therefore invite all Kenyans to #choose to challenge, by stepping into the National Blood Satellites across the Counties to donate blood. This will allow the Blood Transfusion Service to test, process and distribute blood and blood products to at least 500 transfusing hospitals managed by County Governments and Private hospitals, all of which offer Maternity services.
Four weeks ago, I appointed Kenya’s Blood Ambassadors, Mr. Sanya and Ms. Dafalla, who have donated blood a combined total of 152 times, to save the lives of fellow Kenyans. It is recommended that on average a healthy man can safely donate blood four times a year and a woman three times a year. These Ambassadors demonstrate that blood donation is SAFE. The Ministry has developed guidelines for blood management in the context of COVID-19.
To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the Ministry of Health through the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services has partnered with County Governments, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, the Coalition of Blood for Africa (CoBA), AMREF, the Kenya Red Cross, LVCT Health, Lifebank, Lwala Community Allicance, Maisha Youth, Pledge25, Options UK and Bidco Africa Limited to conduct a three-day blood drive across Kenya.
I invite you all to choose to challenge yourself. Commit to Keeping a Mother Alive through donating blood in one of the 32 sites across the country, including Uhuru Park, Nairobi from Sunday 7th March- Tuesday 9th March 2021.
The writer is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health