According to the World Health Organization (WHO), maternal mortality refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth.
It is estimated that annually, Kenya loses nearly 5,000 women with pregnancy or childbirth related complication (WHO, 2017) which is classified as HIGH
based on the WHO classification.
This translates to about 14 women losing their lives every day in Kenya; and as such, when Naomi passed on yesterday; approximately 13 more women lost
their lives to pregnancy or child related complication.
Let me put this into more perspective; in 2017, 190,877 deaths were recorded in the country, of which 85,517 were recorded among women.
This simply means that deaths associated with pregnancy and/or child birth complications accounted to almost 6% of the annual deaths recorded among the
women; or, for every 100 female deaths, 6 were due to pregnancy and/or child birth related complications
This is extremely high and unacceptable!
Let us get the global perspective!
Globally, nearly 295,000 women died in 2017 during pregnancy and/or child birth; and of these women, nearly 196,000 were from Sub-Sahara Africa (66%).
This would thus mean that for every TEN Maternal Deaths recorded globally, about SEVEN are in Sub-Africa.
Remember Sub-Sahara’s share of global population is about 12.5% meaning that the maternal deaths are disproportional
lee and extremely high in Sub-Sahara African than any other place in the world.
Now, in Sub-Sahara Africa, 10 countries (combined) account to nearly 72% of the maternal deaths, and they include Nigeria, DRC, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Chad,
Uganda, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Niger and KENYA.
Simply put, the 10 countries account to almost HALF of the maternal deaths globally, and Kenya is in this list!
But wait a minute, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy records the highest maternal deaths and accounts to 34% of maternal deaths recorded in Africa.
The global target for maternal mortality ratio (MMR) through the SDGs is 70 per 100,000 live births; while the current estimate for Kenya is 342 per 100,000
(Ranked 25th in Africa) and thus a long way to go in achieving the target.
Back to Kenya
While significant reduction in maternal deaths was recorded in Kenya between 2000 and 2010, a slow reduction has been observed between 2011 and 2017; calling
for more efforts.
Countries like Rwanda, Sudan, Mozambique and Zambia are all recording better MMR compared with Kenya
However, worth to note is that nearly 98% of maternal deaths in Kenya are recorded in only 15 counties.
While MMR is estimated as 3,500 per 100,000 live births in Mandera County (CIDP, 2018-2022), the same is estimated as 158 per 100,000 in Kiambu County.
Similarly, the MMR in Wajir County is estimated as 1,500 per 100,000 while in Nyeri, the same is estimated as 63 per 100,000.
The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the country reflects inequalities in access to quality health services
Maternal deaths occur as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these complications develop during pregnancy
and most are preventable or treatable.
Other complications may exist before pregnancy but are worsened during pregnancy, especially if not managed as part of the woman’s care (WHO).
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The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“Excellence of making inclusion happen”