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Strengthening Political Commitment and Investment in Maternal Health
Posted in RH by Patricia Odero on May 4th, 2010

As a Key development partner supporting maternal health interventions in Kenya, GTZ Health Sector Programme participated in a reception held by Women Alive Kenya on 20th April 2010 at Serena Hotel. This was a briefing event for the Kenya Women Parliamentarians (KEWOPA) in order to increase awareness and support for maternal health issues among key decision makers.

During this event, a presentation was made highlighting the current state of maternal health indicators especially in relation to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The presentation urged for greater investment in women’s health because it pays and showed the effect of maternal deaths on child survival and family livelihood. In Kenya, there are about 8000 maternal deaths per year most of which could be prevented by interventions such as access to skilled care in pregnancy, child birth and post-partum; availability of emergency obstetric care and family planning.

Parliamentarians were urged to act both nationally and at the local level. Nationally, leaders can focus attention on maternal health as a national priority; enact legislation to support maternal health while addressing inequity in access to services. At the local constituency level, they can engage communities on maternal health issues and mobilize resources for maternal health. They can also influence community norms regarding maternal survival and care-seeking during pregnancy and child birth. They can also support male involvement and empowerment of women to make correct and informed decisions regarding their reproductive health.

Hon. Linah Kilimo, the Chairperson of KEWOPA, shared a moving story of “Tina” a young lady who dies during child birth as she seeks services. The story illustrated the difficulties of geographical and financial access to maternal health services as well as the consequences of system challenges such as lack of commodities at lower level facilities and referral systems that do not function optimally. Current initiatives at the constituency level were shared, such as “boda-boda” (bicycle riding) nurses stationed at the chief’s camp in Korogocho, an urban slum. These nurses are on call for the residents of the slum for emergencies occurring during the night. The women legislators present at the function promised to advocate for the reprioritizing of maternal health issues nationally among their colleagues in parliament.

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