Poor women in rural areas still bear the brunt of maternal mortality

Two years ago Akinyi lost her one and only sister that she loved so dearly. Her sister died after giving birth at their rural home in Siaya County.

She had suffered from post-partum hemorrhage during delivery which led to her death. The traditional birth attendant did not handle the birth appropriately and the death could have been avoided if Akinyi’s sister had access to quality maternal health services in a hospital.

They chose to seek the services of a traditional birth attendant because the nearest hospital was 20 kilometers away from their home and there was no way she could make it on time for delivery.

Her sister was only 20 years old and served as a greengrocer in their village. She was the breadwinner in their entire family.

She had promised to build her mother a new house immediately she delivered her first child but just one mistake made by the traditional birth attendant sent her together with her promises 6 feet down the ground.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, Kenya has some of the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality in the world. The poorest women and children in rural areas are the most affected.

Despite saving more than 52,000 lives of women and children between 2003 and 2014, Kenya did not achieve the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals that required countries to cut maternal mortality rates by three-quarters by 2015.

 According to the Ministry of Health, maternal deaths account for 14 per cent of all women deaths between the ages of 15 to 19 years. Moreover, maternal mortality in Kenya stands at 362 per 100,000 live births.

Access to maternal health services also depends on where women live and their socio-economic status, and the lack of transport and finances often prevents many women in rural areas from utilising care.

In Kenya, 62% of births are delivered by a skilled provider or take place in health facilities. In rural areas only half of births to rural mothers receive skilled care or are delivered in a facility compared with 82 percent of their urban counterparts.

Maternal mortality is detrimental to social development and wellbeing and should be stopped. No woman should die while giving birth. The moment we lose one life of a woman, the nation loses a lot.

We must give young women the information and support they need to address their reproductive health needs, help them through pregnancy and care for them and their newborn well into childhood.

The vast majority of maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to quality family planning services; skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery; or post-abortion care and where permissible, safe abortion services.

Increased attention for women living in rural areas is needed because a working health system with skilled personnel is key to saving these women's lives.