Maternal deaths in Kakamega county were high. In fact, the county ranked 5th after Mandera, Wajir, Nairobi and Nakuru in the counties where maternal deaths were high.
Then came Imarisha Afya ya Mama na Mtoto program. It was a combined effort by the Kakamega County Government, UNICEF and the Swedish Government.
The deliverables of the campaign are now evident.
29-year-old Bridgit Musoka and 34-year-old Caroline Mbuya from Shiyunzu village in Lurambi constituency are among women that enrolled and benefited from the project.
Due to poverty, most of their children were delivered at home.
They later learnt Imarisha Afya ya Mama na Mtoto and became part of the program.
They delivered their last-born children in a hospital, thanks to the program. It targets the very poor in the locality with an aim of bettering their lives. Its primary goal is to have women delivering free in health facilities. It also facilitates the women with a grant.
They enrol in the program for 18 months and the money is given in instalments of KSHS 2000. Bridgit explains that giving birth to and taking care of her first 5 children was hectic. But the last-born has had better conditions after she enrolled.
Caroline feels the same. Delivering at home comes with its fair share of challenges. Sometimes it can cost the life of the mother or child or both. The little Caroline and Bridgit earn doing odd jobs is hardly enough to cater for the proper nutrition and overall care of a newborn child.
It is possible to avert Maternal deaths.
Information Gaps & Poverty
The two women exemplify the information gap that exists in the country in regard to family planning. They had little information. Consequently, they gave birth to children they can hardly care for. Bridgit has 6 children. Caroline has 3.
Both women have not only spent the money on their young ones but engaged in small-scale business ventures which are largely expanding.
Speaking during the launch of the program at the Golf hotel in Kakamega town, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya stressed the importance of safeguarding the lives of women and children.
For Oparanya, it is a personal endeavour. He has visited Rwanda, which has adopted the Imarisha Afya ya Mama na Mtoto project to learn more about the program. UNICEF offered an annual support of 1 million USD. The county initially expected to work with 15000 moms but the number rose up to 40,000.
The challenge is to keep up the momentum even in the face of a rapidly growing population in the county.
According to the governor, a growth rate of 3.5% is piling pressure on the social amenities and overall resources.
The County is expanding its health facilities with the construction of the new level 4 hospital set to be named, Kakamega teaching and referral hospital.
The County hopes to open the first phase in July 2018.