Kenya has made steady progress in improving reproductive and maternal health outcomes in the last decade. Six out of ten pregnant women now receive skilled care at childbirth and over half receive postnatal care. However, despite this progress, Kenya could not achieve maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals that ended in 2015. In Kenya today, many pregnant women continue to die from preventable conditions. Access to quality Reproductive Maternal Health services remains a challenge across all levels of care, and inequities continue to persist among population subgroups, and between the rich and the poor.
According to the Kenya Demographic health Survey 2014, maternal mortality in Kenya Stands at 362 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities. Poor women in rural areas are the least likely to receive adequate health care because of the low numbers of skilled health workers in the area. Other factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth in rural areas are poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services and cultural practices.
The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under the age of 15 years and according to the world health organization, complications in pregnancy and childbirth is a leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.
To improve maternal health in Kenya, all barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at all levels of the health system. Moreover Kenya should work towards preventing unintended and early pregnancies. Providing contraceptives and skilled care at birth could prevent half of maternal deaths and dramatically reduce unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and mother to newborn transmission of HIV.
There is a growing evidence that investing on women and adolescent girls reproductive health has high returns to the society and economy at large since more lives would be saved and well-being improved. According to the Kenya National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) 2015, it estimated that with an increased use of family planning services to reach a contraceptive prevalence rate of 65% by 2020, Kenya would be able to save the lives of more than 20,000 mothers and 144,000 children, and avert more than 7.7 million unintended pregnancies and 1.4 million unsafe abortions. Global evidence has also shown that investing in reproductive, maternal and adolescent health is smart thing to do. For an additional 1 dollar invested in women’s, adolescents’ and children’s health, there would be 9 dollars of economic and social benefits.
Investing in adolescents’ health and education would also lead to a healthier, better skilled, and educated future workforce which will assist Kenya in realizing its demographic dividend.
It is clear that a lot more still needs to be done by Kenya to address all barriers in the delivery of essential health care services in order to realize the goals of vision 2030 and the 2010 Constitution. The Bill of Rights under the constitution of Kenya clearly articulates the right for health including reproductive health.
This is an opportune time for Kenya to invest more in Reproductive and Maternal Health of women and adolescents girls as proven. We know what needs to be done, we are so good on pen and paper and in making the best policies but how it needs to be done and implemented still remains largely elusive.
For us to have a Kenya where there are no preventable deaths of women, no preventable still-births, where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth celebrated and accounted for; and where women, children and adolescents are free of HIV/AIDS, survive, thrive and reach their full social and economic potential, we will need strong political commitment in improving reproductive and maternal health of women and adolescent girls, improvements in education and the reduction in the gender gap. It is possible for Kenya to achieve sustainable improvements in Reproductive Maternal and Adolescent Health services and realize its Vision 2030 goals.