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Children are better off with educated mums

Children's Health

Educated women are socio-economically empowered to earn a decent living. [Courtesy]

Jeridah Lalwei, 30, from Marigat in Baringo County, was reluctant to seek healthcare after experiencing persistent abdominal pains when she was five months pregnant.

The mother of two had been diagnosed with acute malaria at the Marigat Sub County Hospital but the medication did not improve matters. Jeridah sought the help of a traditional herbalist in April 2020.

Health & Science met her at the home of former birth attendant, Elena Kachike and “all I want from the ‘mkunga’ (birth attendant) is to have my pregnancy checked and get some traditional herbs.”

Jeridah was noncommittal on whether she would complete her malaria dose, but maintained that Kachike, also a community health volunteer, was an experienced having successfully attended to pregnancy complications.

Kachike explained that many women sought traditional cures for them and their children as they did not understand modern medicine. Though “community sensitisation on the importance of hospital deliveries is continuously undertaken,” she says, “majority of less-educated women do not seek antenatal and hospital deliveries” and neither do they take their children for immunization, highly affecting their growth.

 Hospital deliveries 

Kachike is the chair of Wakunga Shujaa Group comprising 35 members (formerly traditional birth attendants) who accompany expectant mothers due for delivery to hospitals.

“I used to deliver women, but I stopped after being enlightened on dangers among them deaths, excessive bleeding and infections for example, contracting of diseases like HIV and AIDs and Hepatitis B,” explained Kachike adding that accompanying women to health facilities has increased hospital deliveries and in her case it includes walking door to door to ensure mothers take their children for six childhood immunizations.


Educated women access factual information on best health care. [Courtesy]

A study published in Lancet linked educational level of parents with under-five child mortality, with mother education emerging as a stronger predictor.

A section of the findings notes “we observed a reduction in under-five mortality of 31 per cent for children born to mothers with 12 years of education (completed secondary education) and 17.3 per cent, for children born to fathers with 12 years of education, compared with those born to a parent with no education.”

The study further noted that a single additional year of schooling, on average, reduced under-five mortality by three and two percent in respect of mother and father education, respectively.   

The study was done between January 23 and Feb 8, 2019, and updated on January 7, 2021.

Its finding added that “the association between higher parental education and lower child mortality was significant for both parents at all ages studied and was largest after the first month of life.”

Child deaths

Globally, the majority of child deaths occur in the first 28 days, due to prematurity, congenital anomalies and pregnancy complications.

But researchers noted a slow progress in reducing neonatal mortality, leading to a growing share of neonates among the under-five deaths with main cause of deaths being diarrhea, pneumonia and neonatal complications. However, there was a 1.5 per cent lower neonatal mortality per year of education for mothers, and 1.1 per cent for fathers.

The reasons were that “neonatal causes of death are strongly influenced by antenatal and perinatal health-care quality and access, it is not surprising that the relationship between neonatal mortality and parental education was smaller than that for post-neonatal infants and children”.


Neonatal causes of death are strongly influenced by antenatal and perinatal health-care access. [Courtesy]

UNICEF noted that children in Kenya’s northern counties and urban informal settlements are more likely to die from preventable diseases than those living elsewhere and “currently, 88 per cent of children are fully immunized, up from 84 per cent in 2014,” says UNICEF noting that only half of children in some pastoralist and underdeveloped counties are fully immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Educated women more confident with medics

The Kenya Obstetrical and Gynecological Society president-elect Kireki Omanwa said education broadened a mother’s understanding of health issues as “educated women understand how to take care of pregnancy, and that of their babies,” and danger signs affecting their health and that of their children.

Educated women are socio-economically empowered to earn a decent living, which enables them access better healthcare and are “able to live in an area with access to better facilities, for example, good roads, network, and hospitals,” said Omanwa, adding that such women also access factual information on best health care from their friends, medical practitioners and in case of complications or an emergency they understand possible ways of delivery like Cesarean Section.

“Women who are educated have confidence, in that they can share information with experts on a challenge facing them, and their children, because they read, unlike uneducated ones,” explains Omanwa.

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