What Kenya must do to give better healthcare to every woman and child

Friday December 18 2015

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with children from Mama Ngina Children's Home in Kisumu before the official handing-over ceremony of the 24th fully kitted 'Beyond Zero' mobile clinic to Kisumu County Government at Otieno Oyoo High School Grounds on April 30, 2015. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with children from Mama Ngina Children's Home in Kisumu before the official handing-over ceremony of the 24th fully kitted 'Beyond Zero' mobile clinic to Kisumu County Government at Otieno Oyoo High School Grounds on April 30, 2015. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Kenya is one of the countries where maternal health is still lagging far behind.  It is ranked among the 10 most dangerous countries for a woman to be pregnant in and give birth.  21 women die every day due to preventable pregnancy-related complications, while 1 in 19 children never live to see their fifth birthday.

Kenya has a tremendous opportunity to do even more to help women and children have better healthcare, and so improve their lives. 

That’s why at the beginning of December 2015, partners from Government of Kenya, the United Nations, civil society, private sector and development institutions came together for a workshop organised by the World Economic Forum, Ministry of Health Kenya, World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The workshop was to forge the way forward and discuss a roadmap for partnerships that can leapfrog the health care services for improving the health status of Kenya’s women and children.  

It is hoped that Kenya can play its role to inspire the importance of collective action for women and children at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2016.  

In Kenya, inequality in health care is immense. Among the poorest section of the population, only about 3 out of every 10 women receive skilled care during delivery. This is compared to 9 out of 10 amongst the richest.  

A disproportionately larger share of maternal deaths occur in 15 of the country’s 47 counties with a crippling impact on the development efforts. 

This is unacceptable. The need for innovation in financing health care in developing countries has become a pressing priority.

Millions of women and children still die each year from preventable diseases and just recently, world leaders committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health. But the financial means to reach them are under pressure.  

The health and wellbeing of women and children is fundamental for a more prosperous, peaceful and better future.

By reducing maternal mortality and fertility rates through improved healthcare, the number of dependants will fall and the number of people who are able to provide for and contribute to the development will rise.

This situation, known as the demographic dividend, presents a unique opportunity for economic growth, which will only come along once for emerging economies to reap.  

The human and economic benefits of investing in health have already been proved, but there is still a need for the government, healthcare leaders and all partners to do more to come up with smarter, scalable and sustainable business models, to keep up the development.

The need for innovative financing for accelerating the efforts is evidently clear. The annual financing shortfall of the 63 countries with the highest burdens of maternal and child mortality currently stands at $33 billion.  

In Kenya, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, UNFPA and H4+ partners along with other healthcare providers are exploring new avenues for joint funding and partnerships. This is part of the Global Financing Facility (GFF) initiative to support the Every Woman Every Child-strategy.

The GFF has galvanised support by a number of governments such as Canada, USA, Japan and Norway, foundations led by the Gates Foundation and private sector companies.

In Kenya, the number of partners joining the initiative is growing each day, with civil society agencies such as Kenya Red Cross, Save the Children, AMREF as well as private sector organisations including the Kenya Healthcare Federation, Philips, Merck, MSD, GSK and Huawei.

All of them take an active role in supporting national and county governments to find innovative solutions to scale-up delivery of quality services for women, children and adolescents.

In Kenya, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta started the Beyond Zero campaign with her clarion call, “no woman should die giving life” which is aimed at bringing preventable deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth to zero.  

The time has come for everybody to seek unprecedented collaboration to ensure “no woman dies giving life”. 

With the private sector moving towards shared values and viable business models, and with governments committing to “leave no one behind”, we actually have an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend and leapfrog Kenya and other developing countries forward.

Kenya can lead the way and transform the health and wellbeing of “every woman, every child”.
By Ruth Kagia (Senior Adviser, Office of the President), Dr Gandham N.V. Ramana (Lead Health Specialist at the World Bank in Nairobi), Dessislava Dimitrova (Associate Director for Health Systems Transformation, World Economic Forum) and Siddharth Chatterjee, UNFPA Kenya Representative)