Maternal Mortality in Kenya: Logistics and the Loss of Life

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August 28, 2014

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Photo credit: hdptcar / flickr

Photo credit: hdptcar / flickr

There are few things more profoundly moving than a mother bringing human life into the world. Conversely, few things are more heartbreaking than the loss of a human life before it has begun, and in the most tragic cases, the loss of the mother as well. This is the reality of maternal mortality. Reports put Kenya’s maternal mortality rate at 488 maternal deaths per every 100,000 live births, a harsh figure representing the heartbreak of 488 families and loss of 488 innocent lives every 100,000 live births.

The most common cause of maternal mortality, more so in the areas of North Eastern Kenya, is accessibility. In underdeveloped regions such as this, what hospitals and medical care exist are usually a lifetime away for most residents. Poor infrastructure makes the distances between residents and medical care difficult to close due to lack of roads and the necessary vehicles to reach them in good time. Many expectant mothers therefore opt for risky home-births away from assistance should the delivery prove difficult. The unfortunate cause of these avoidable deaths therefore becomes poor logistics support, and planning on the side of authorities responsible for developing these facilities.

Poor logistics also makes it impossible to facilitate the education needed to help curb maternal morbidity in such areas. A contributing factor to the loss of life, both mother and child, is the lack of proper education on modern means of birth assistance. Potential mothers who have been instructed on what could go wrong during labour and the importance of delivering in the hospital are more likely to make plans to have their children in the relative safety of a medical healthcare facility. Similarly, they are more likely to work towards curbing practices that increase risk of complications during pregnancy, such as female genital mutilation, which usually requires most victims to deliver through caesarian section at some point, often during their first delivery.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This goes hand in hand with training local midwives. Without proper logistics, it is difficult to reach and empower traditional midwife practitioners with potentially lifesaving knowledge. Where women cannot reach proper medical institutions, the local caregivers should be better equipped to help and recognize instances where hospital assistance should be sought sooner rather than later. Such basic information could go a long way towards lowering death rates for both mother and child in the less urban areas of the country.

Another major challenge towards successful delivery is a lack of access to the needful resources. Say a mother to be has reported to the hospital in time for her delivery but suffers complications that necessitate a transfusion of O negative blood. Should there be no proper logistics channels to supply this hospital with donor blood supply, this innocent woman and her child could be in mortal danger. Similarly, medication and medical equipment needed to support a successful child birth may be unable to reach those in need due to poor logistics structures and planning, heightening the risk of preventable maternal mortality.

The unfortunate trend of mothers and potential leaders of tomorrow needlessly losing their lives in the more marginalized parts of the country has been incubated by a number of factors, with poor logistics playing no small part. It is easy to overlook the importance of providing proper logistics support to all corners of the country, but the consequences are large scale and far reaching. Can devolution resolve this sad state of affairs?


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