2 September 2013

Kenya: Standing Up for Mothers

ONE of the saddest paradoxes in sub-Saharan Africa is that many women die when they are giving life.

Newborn and maternal mortality rates are unacceptably high in Africa, according to Amref. Haunted by the high number of babies and mothers dying during child birth, the organisation sought to increase and improve the skills of caregivers in this process, through the Stand Up for African Mothers campaign that began late 2012.

Today, exceptional individuals in the nursing fraternity have indeed answered the call to stand tall against deaths during delivery by applying for training and extra skill acquisition by Amref trainers.

One such person is 28-year-old David Kogo, a nurse from Kajiado. This is one of the areas widely known for teenage pregnancies due to early marriages and high rate of school dropouts.

"Kajiado is an area where there is a lot of ignorance," says the midwifery trainee."Traditional birth attendants are very common and are taking in more women during delivery than the hospitals."

However, this should not be allowed to happen owing to the risks involved in home deliveries.

Veteran midwife and a trainer at the Amref virtual training school Ruth Maithya cites post partum haemorrhage or in layman's terms overbleeding after birth and poor hygiene conditions as some of the biggest killers of mothers who opt for home delivery.

"It is mainly caused when placenta does not come out after birth or what we call the retained placenta," explains Maithya.

"It is common with mothers who give birth at home because in hospital or medical facilities, every woman is given a drug called oxytocinon after delivery to prevent this excess bleeding."

She adds that use of unsterilised equipment by the traditional birth attendants is also cause of a major problem known as sepsis.

Nurse Donata Njule, who is also training under the campaign by Amref to reduce child birth deaths, however, notes that as much as more women in areas like Mombasa where she works are now opting for hospital deliveries than previous years, a shortage of skilled nurses is now an alarming factor.

"I have been to health facilities especially the public ones, where there is a nurses shortage and it ends up that most of the mothers who go there for deliveries are not being attended to properly," says the 47-year-old midwife who now works at the private Mombasa Hospital.

"Sometimes these women end up delivering the babies on their own which is a big danger because when a complication like a tear emerges it can cause other problems like fistula," she adds.

Njule says a midwife is important in helping to deliver a baby because they are skilled in ensuring that the vaginal wall is well supported so as not to cause damage to the uterus and cervix.

Statistics show that currently 32 babies die for every 1,000 deliveries and 488 mothers die for every 100,000 deliveries in Kenya.

It is these numbers that horrified people like Kogo and Njule enough to walk the talk and seek solutions to help women during deliveries.

"I felt a mother is a very important person and it would be good for me to take this up and improve the health of mothers," says Kogo.

The two, like many others at the Amref training centre in Nairobi, travel from time to time to attend the trainings which are also supported by Chase Bank Group.

It is a course that takes two years by distance learning with practical and class sessions in between, meaning many have to leave their families for some weeks at a time to make this initiative effective.

Stand Up for African Mothers is an awareness and fundraising campaign that runs started last year and runs until 2015 to make childbearing a matter of joy, instead of a life-threatening ordeal, for African women, says Amref.

The target is to train 15,000 midwives by the end of the campaign to reduce maternal deaths in accordance with Millennium Development Goal number five.Amref says one midwife can look after 500 mothers every year and safely deliver 100 babies.

Internationally, the campaign aims to gather 100,000 signatures from people around the world who are standing up for African mothers.

But for people like Kogo and Njule who have seen the reality of delivery complications first hand, they are not only standing up but rolling sleeves to get the work done and reduce these deaths.

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