In 2020, a mother died every two minutes from preventable causes. Most of these deaths occur in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya’s government is committed to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 to “ensure the health and well-being of all.” The government remains particularly committed to reducing maternal mortality, which has lagged in the country despite other areas of health progress. In Kenya, more mothers die during childbirth than the international average. According to the World Health Organization, impoverished women in remote areas are most at risk of maternal mortality when comparing urban with rural areas. The heartbreaking fact is that most of these deaths are preventable. Kenya instituted free maternal healthcare and vouchers for reproductive health. However, maternal mortality persists despite these efforts, particularly in rural and remote areas. So why is maternal mortality still so high in Kenya?
Rural regions often lack skilled healthcare workers.
The World Health Organization states that having a skilled birth attendant before, during, and after childcare will save countless women and newborns. In rural regions attracting and retaining dedicated and well-trained staff is often difficult. Studies show that rural health clinics are often tougher to staff with skilled workers. These areas are far from health universities and lack a natural job pipeline. Additionally, rural positions often pay less than urban areas.
Rural infrastructure presents unique problems related to healthcare services.
Like most countries in Africa, Kenya operates a referral system. This system starts with home healthcare and ripples to local clinics and county hospitals. In rural and remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa, communities are often scattered. It may be difficult for a clinic to find an optimal place to provide services. Poor road networks often join these communities, creating long distances to the nearest hospital. Where our clinic resides, the roads are often badly kept and may become impassable during extreme weather. This means that if a mother is experiencing a pregnancy emergency, she may not be able to make it to the nearest hospital in a timely manner. We have witnessed several circumstances in which the mother or baby was lost on the way to the hospital.
Other contributing factors to high maternal mortality include a lack of sanitary conditions that lead to infection, the risk of having a home birth away from a skilled facility, and a lack of lifesaving equipment.
Vill Angel Clinic Provides Safe Births in Rural Kenya
We strategically chose the location when we set up the Vill-Angel Medical Clinic. Vill-Angel Medical Clinic is located in a remote, rural region of Kenya that serves a population without other healthcare options nearby. Our clinic is also staffed by a highly trained health practitioner specializing in maternal and newborn health. Presently, our clinic can facilitate birth safety. However, this year, we hope to outfit the facility with the proper equipment and staffing to serve more expecting mothers in the region and ensure that every mother has access to a safe birth.
- Doctor, H.V., Nkhana-Salimu, S. & Abdulsalam-Anibilowo, M. Health facility delivery in sub-Saharan Africa: successes, challenges, and implications for the 2030 development agenda. BMC Public Health18, 765 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5695-z
- Maternal mortality (who.int)
- Kenya Community Health Policy (2020-2030)
- Masaba et al. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2022) 22:903 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-022-05259-w