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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Death of newborns reduces by 70% despite financial, labour setbacks

A file photo of newborns asleep at the Pumwani Hospital, Nairobi. /JEPTUM CHESYNA
A file photo of newborns asleep at the Pumwani Hospital, Nairobi. /JEPTUM CHESYNA

Kenya has reduced the deaths of newborns by 70 per cent since the onset of free maternity services four years ago, a new study shows.

Initially, Kenya was losing 100,000 children in the first 28 days of life but the number has since reduced to 30,000 children.

The project took effect in June 2013 and has largely been successful despite financial challenges, Director Management Sciences for Health, Spencer Ochieng told the Star.

Council of Governors in the past has raised an alarm over delayed disbursement of money meant to support the project.

The project has also faced shortage health personnel to carry out the services.

Ochieng said Kenya has a potential to reduce maternal mortality to zero if challenges facing the project are resolved.

He said that the project had received mixed reactions in different counties.

“The project has varried response. It depends on the county, others are really having a burden in the issue of free maternity other will tell you it has been a game-changer,” Ochieng said.

MSH is a Nairobi-based NGO that has a 20-year partnership with the government to improve human resource in public health facilities.

Ochieng said the success of the free maternity is hitched on adequate timely funding as well as increasing the number of health workers to met the demand of the program.

Read: Health CS calls for new ideas to root out infant mortality

“Some facilities have seen 100 per cent increase in the number of women seeking help at birth that has seen need for increase in supplies and all manner of services even the health personnel have been stretched yet the funds are limited,” Ochieng said.

Since the onset of the project, women who deliver in health facilities has shot up by almost double from the previous 670,000 to 1.2 million.

“Some counties could not actually support it they asked the women to go with certain supplies with them as they went to deliver which introduced the same expenses initially meant to be wavered,” he added.

Ochieng has urged the government and counties to work on a plan that will use data to tackle the infant motality rate to zero.

“I want to see a situation in 2017 where the county governments provide data to national government to justify their request for funds and also the timely disbursement of funds to the county,” he said.

Before the project, Kenya was loosing and 6,000 women that number has now declined by a third to about 4,000.

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