17 October 2017

Kenya: Maternal Deaths Increase as Nurses' Strike Persists

Photo: Joseph Kanyi/Daily Nation
Nurses attend to newborns at Consolata Hospital in Nyeri (file photo).

The number of mothers who have died in childbirth doubled to 857 in the first half of this year, driven by prolonged doctors and nurses' strikes that have left most women without medical attention during critical hours of delivery.

A confidential ministry of Health report from the District Health Information Systems says the figure had jumped from 413 deaths registered during a similar period last year, making Kenya one of the worst places for childbirth.


The ministry, however, captures only 10 per cent of such deaths as many others go unrecorded, especially because more than 50 per cent of public health facilities remain closed as the nationwide nurses' strike, in its 134th day, continues.

"Facilities are not working and the data could only be for those who die in hospital," the head of the Maternal and Reproductive Health Unit in the Health ministry, Dr Joel Gondi, said.

"I do not have the data to interrogate further but first we need to look at the authenticity of the source, where the deaths are recorded and look at the contributing factors.

"The Director of Medical Services (Dr Jackson Kioko) is better placed to respond," he said.


Marsabit, Migori, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Kwale and Lamu counties are among the top 15 regions with the highest maternal deaths, accounting for about 50 per cent of all maternal deaths in the country, according to the United Nations.

The Medical Superintendent at Moyale Sub-County Referral Hospital in Marsabit Mohamed Ebrahim said the facility has not had deliveries since the nurses' strike began in June.

"The situation is terrible, we cannot do anything without the nurses," Dr Ebrahim said.


Data from the United Nations Children's Fund shows Kenya's maternal deaths per 100,000 live births stood at 510 in 2015 down from 605 in 2010.

The trend is, however, taking a sharp reversal with the on-and-off health workers' strike reversing gains from interventions such as the Sh3.4 billion free maternity services the Jubilee administration launched in 2013.

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