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April 28, 2015
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April 28, 2015

We Can Reduce Maternal Deaths.Inspiration from First Lady Mrs Margaret Kenyatta

The health of mothers has long been acknowledged to be a cornerstone of public health and attention to unacceptably high level of maternal mortality has been a feature of global health and development discussions since the 1980s.

However, although a few countries have made remarkable progress in recent years, the reality has not generally followed the rhetoric. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is this year's UN in Kenya Person of the Year. Mrs. Kenyatta was awarded the prestigious award on Friday, October 24, 2014 during festivities celebrating United Nations Day for her efforts to improve maternal and child health in the country through her ‘Beyond Zero' Campaign. According to the Ministry of Health statistics, maternal death represents about 15 per cent of all deaths of women aged between 15-49 years. This translates to between 6,000 to 8,000 pregnant women dying every year, or 21 maternal deaths a day.

At the onset of the Beyond Zero Campaign in January 2014, 8,000 women died every year from preventable pregnancy-related complications largely for lack of skilled birth attendance, while 108,000 children before age five died every year from communicable diseases. Since the onset of the campaign hospital records show a significant increase in the uptake of women delivering in hospitals under skilled birth attendance (from 46% to 66%)

"Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths in our country is not a choice, it is a necessity. For too long, the prospect of childbirth in Kenya to thousands of women has been tantamount to a death sentence. This is not acceptable. It must stop,".Mrs Margaret Kenyatta Mrs. Kenyatta not only made history as the first ever First Lady to run a marathon for a worthy cause, but also the first First Lady ever to be awarded the UN Person of the Year Award.

The First Lady's clarion call continues to be that "No Woman Should Die While Giving Life" This is greatly inspiring! Additionally, the Beyond Zero Campaign was launched to meet Kenya's challenges in meeting MDGs 4, 5 and 6 on infant and maternal mortality, and reduction of HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths.

In the USA in 1900, there were about 700 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births, the same order of magnitude as in many developing countries today. One hundred years later, maternal mortality had fallen to less than 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Similar precipitous declines occurred in other industrialized countries; in Sweden, the decline started well before 1900. By 1950, levels all over the developed world had coalesced at levels well below 100 per 100,000.

How did this change come about?

What made a difference was the political will to put the technologies into effect and this required two enabling conditions: the societal recognition that female social, economic and political emancipation was a prerequisite for social development (and its corollary, social peace) and the involvement of medical professionals in promoting that emancipation.

Beyond Zero campaign has delivered more than seven fully kitted mobile clinics to TaitaTaveta, Narok, Isiolo, Homa Bay, Wajir, Baringo and Samburu counties. These are Counties that have some of the highest maternal and newborn mortality rates in the country.

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