Through the service, many expectant women in the county where maternal deaths are high, are now accessing healthcare with fast and with ease

Kenya has made remarkable strides in the war against maternal and infant mortality in the last two decades.

However, statistics show that women and children are still losing their lives as a result of avoidable pregnancy complications.

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 362 maternal deaths occurred per 100,000 live births between 2007 and 2014, a decline from 520 per 100,000 between 2008- 2009.

One of the main causes is failure by pregnant women to go for antenatal visits. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), antenatal check-ups are vital because this is where obstetric problems that may lead to complications and death are identified and appropriate interventions taken.

Majority of these deaths occur among women living in rural areas and among poorer communities where hospitals are few and women have to walk long distances to access health facilities. For most of these women, the decision to stay at home or to go out looking for a livelihood trumps that of going to hospital attention.

Also ignorance, traditional beliefs and reliance on tradition birth attendants have seen majority of women prefer to give birth at home. Birth attendants, although knowledgeable, are not well equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies. As such, giving birth in a health facility greatly increases the chance of survival for both the mother and the child.

“Over 115 emergency cases have been attended to using the Ambulance. Of these cases 94 referrals were as a result of pregnancy related complications.”

Among the Counties with high maternal deaths burden in Kenya are Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, Homa Bay, Mandera.

This worrying trend premised Safaricom Foundation to partner with Homabay County to improve referral services for mothers to deliver in health facilities.

The partnership involved donation of an ambulance to Pala Health Centre in Ndhiwa Sub-County in 2016. This service has gone a long way in reducing the alarmingly high number of women and infants who die during or after childbirth.

Pregnant women who have had emergencies have been the main beneficiaries of the ambulance. The women receive emergency care in the ambulance as they are ferried to the nearest health facility.

This project has reduced maternal and new-born mortalities. It has also given assurances to pregnant women on their safety delivering at Pala Health Centre, hence increased health facility based deliveries. The number of hospital deliveries in Pala Health Centre has gone up from an average of 23 to 28 per month to 40-50 per month.

The service has enhanced referral services of pregnant women or pre-term babies who need immediate care. Ninetyfour of the 115 cases that have benefitted from the ambulance have been maternity referrals representing 82% of all cases.

Before the arrival of the ambulance, bicycles were the main mode of transport, an unsafe and uncomfortable option especially for pregnant women who are about to give birth.

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