Wednesday, 11 June 2014 19:06

Keeping the promise: UNFPA escalates support to improve maternal health Featured

Written by Kenyan Woman Correspondent

More lives of women giving birth will be saved when the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) increases its support towards maternal health.

 According to the UNFPA Representative Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN agency and other partner organisations are working at exploring innovations that can help save the lives of pregnant women in hard to reach and remote areas who are the most vulnerable.

Chatterjee said this when he paid a courtesy call to the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, at State House Nairobi. “UNFPA plans to support the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Health and County leadership to scale up initiatives in ten of the counties that have recorded the highest maternal mortality rates in the country,” said Chatterjee.

The noted counties have registered maternal deaths ranging between 55-60 per cent.

UNFPA Kenya also committed to support the Ministry of Health in convening a meeting of governors, their spouses and health executives from the 10 counties. The meeting will also include key partners who will discuss measures needed to accelerate progress on maternal health.

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Statistics indicate that over 5,500 women in Kenya die annually due to pregnancy and birth related complications. In 2012 alone, over 100,000 children below age five died before their first birthday. In the same year, there were over 13,000 new HIV infections among children, of whom 62 per cent did not access life-saving medication.

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Chatterjee congratulated the Kenya Government for adopting the free maternity services policy and for allocating KSh4 billion towards maternal health in the 2013-2014 budget.

“This will go a long way in improving quality of care in government facilities,” he said.

Mrs Kenyatta expressed her appreciation on the efforts UNFPA has committed towards advancing maternal health. She welcomed UNFPA’s support to reduce maternal mortality in Kenya.

Statistics indicate that over 5,500 women in Kenya die annually due to pregnancy and birth related complications. In 2012 alone, over 100,000 children below age five died before their first birthday. In the same year, there were over 13,000 new HIV infections among children, of whom 62 per cent did not access life-saving medication.

The First Lady launched the Beyond Zero Campaign to effectively deliver on her pledge made during the summit held in Addis Ababa by the Organisation of First Ladies against HIV and AIDS in Africa where she committed to champion a campaign to eliminate new HIV infections among children and to keep their mothers alive.

To highlight the poor state of maternal health in Kenya the First Lady ran a half and full marathon (in Nairobi and London respectively) to advance the Beyond Zero campaign and raise awareness on the need to reducing maternal and child deaths in Kenya.

Led by the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the UN Country team in Kenya are coming together to deliver as one and advocating the need to drastically reduce maternal deaths in Kenya and improving Kenya’s performance on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Five. This goal’s objective is to reduce by three-quarters the country’s maternal morality ratio and to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

Chatterjee also appealed to the First Lady to integrate HPV and adolescent health in the Beyond Zero campaign.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family that is capable of infecting humans. Most HPV infections are sub-clinical and will cause no physical symptoms; however, in some people sub-clinical infections will become clinical and may cause benign papillomas (such as warts) or cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anus. More than 30 to 40 types of HPV are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the anogenital region. Some sexually transmitted HPV types may cause genital warts. HPV infection is a cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

“UNFPA Kenya has placed the adolescent girl in the centre of our initiatives as this will reduce her vulnerability to early, unwanted pregnancies as well as poor access to health facilities and education,” said Chatterjee.

He noted: “we also aim to protect the adolescent girl from harmful cultural practices that prevent her from realising her full potential and establishing a well-grounded foundation for her family.”

Chatterjee also congratulated the Government for successfully piloting the HPV vaccine in Kitui and the commitment to roll out the same nationally.

Chatterjee conveyed UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin’s warm greetings to the First Lady and UNFPA’s steadfast commitment to support the Government of Kenya.

“My marching orders from Dr Osotimehin when I was appointed as his Representative was to ensure UNFPA Kenya does everything possible to advance sexual and reproductive health and the rights of all Kenyans,” explained Chatterjee.

The First Lady and Chatterjee strongly agreed that, “No woman should die giving life”.

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