Child deaths blamed on illiteracy among mothers

By LINAH BENYAWA

Kilifi County: A new study has disclosed that 92 per cent of mothers who delivered at home in Kilifi County last year were illiterate.

The study shows that lack of education was one of the main factors that have led to high infant mortality rates in the county.

According to the Kaloleni District Health Officer Dr David Mang’ong’o, who conducted the research between July and August last year, only 8 per cent of these mothers had attained education beyond upper primary school and could read and write.

He said safe motherhood would only be embraced by educating girls.

“The World Health Organisation in 2011 reported that education in Kilifi County has not been embraced by many people. This was evident in the research since most mothers who had delivered at home were reported to be illiterate, with literacy levels standing at only 8 per cent. This is very disturbing because it contributes to a high infant mortality rate,” said Dr Mang’ong’o.

Referring to mothers who delivered last year, the report read, “... 92 per cent of this population has not seen the light of education,” adding that 9 per cent of delivery choices taken by pregnant women were imposed by their husbands.

Grave risks

Some 75 per cent of pregnant women made independent choices to deliver at home while 11 per cent were coerced by “the extended family,” according to the research findings.

Mang’ong’o warned that delivering at home exposes the mother and the new-born to grave risks which culminate in deaths or life changing malformations and infections.

Dr Mang’ong’o argued that lack of education has determined the process of delivery since majority of the mothers are usually influenced by their relatives or husbands. “Formal education makes people reason at a higher level than those who never attend school,” he added.

He said most mothers were housewives with no employment, hindering their ability to choose where to deliver due to economic constraints.

He explained that safe motherhood was an important aspect in maternal health and child survival but said it was worrying that only 34 per cent of deliveries in Rabai and Kaloleni districts occurred in hospitals.