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KENYA: Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health

Since 2006, HealthRight has worked to decrease the high rates of death among mothers and their newborn children among the Pokot, marginalized ethnic communities in the North Rift Valley of Kenya.
HealthRight’s project, the Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health, focused on nine health facilities in the three rural Pokot districts. Our goal was to improve the quality of health services while also working with communities to encourage healthy lifestyles and promote healthy care-seeking behaviors. 

After only four years, HealthRight has improved maternal and newborn health. 

  • Life-saving services like blood transfusions and antibiotics are now available in these remote areas because of HealthRight’s efforts. 
  • Women now have the crucial information that they need to seek care during and after pregnancy.
  • Four times more women could name important danger signs to watch out for during pregnancy and twice as many women knew the signs of complications after delivery. As a result, dramatic increases were also seen in the utilization of postnatal care and neonatal care services, and breastfeeding rates.

 

Background on the Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health

Maternal and neonatal health care continues to be an urgent need in Kenya’s Northern Rift Valley. In this region, more than 70% of women give birth in their homes, and access to emergency medical care is hindered by long distances, poor roads, and lack of transportation infrastructure.  One-third of infant deaths occur during the first month of life, and over 95% of women in the region have undergone female genital mutilation, making them even more vulnerable during pregnancy and childbirth.
 
HealthRight established the Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health in 2006 to reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths in the Northern Rift Valley.  The program built the capacity of local health providers, educated communities about essential care, and buillt lasting access to services.  Prevention and treatment services for HIV/AIDS and malaria were also key components of the project.    
 
Training health providers and expanding community access
HealthRight trained staff from the region’s public health services to provide antenatal care, emergency obstetric services, safe delivery, and newborn care.  Mobile outreach clinics reached women and babies in their communities with services that could be provided outside health facilities. Beginning in 2009, HealthRight opened maternal dormitories.  Locally known as a “kiror,” the dormitory or waiting home offers a place close to the health center where women who live far from health facilities can stay before giving birth. Learn more...
 
Increasing community awareness
HealthRight worked with local leaders to identify Community Health Workers within communities.  HealthRight trained the workers to raise awareness about health topics among pregnant women and new mothers and to increase appropriate utilization of health facilities. 

Improving systems
Kenya’s Northern Rift Valley lacks effective health systems necessary to improve maternal and newborn health services.  To address this problem, HealthRight worked with local partners to improve the region’s health information systems at health centers and dispensaries.  This has resulted in better heath information about maternal and neonatal deaths at the district and provincial level.

HealthRight has also worked with local health centers to renovate and improve facilities where women access MNH services.  In addition to providing new equipment, the improved facilities provide a more welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for women during pregnancy and childbirth.