EU Supports Wheels for Life Expansion to Five Counties for Pregnant Women to Access Emergency Medical Care During COVID-19 Curfew Hours

by Amref Health Africa

From September 2020, the Wheels for Life initiative is expanding beyond Nairobi County to enable pregnant women in Machakos, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kiambu and Uasin Gishu Counties to dial 1196, a toll-free line, for prompt diagnosis by doctors from 9 PM to 4 AM. In Emergency cases, they get free transport to the hospital.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a global pandemic especially dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions. The disease has resulted in fatalities across the globe with 852,000 deaths reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as of 2 September 2020.

Mitigation measures such as the imposition of curfews, limiting movement of people and setting up of quarantine and isolation facilities in Kenya are aimed at making the COVID-19 epidemiological curve less steep. Currently, the burden of disease in Kenya stands at 34,493 affected with 20,449 recoveries and 577 deaths. The Government of Kenya issued a daily nationwide curfew from 9 PM to 4 AM in hopes to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Through the Wheels for Life platform started on 28 April 2020, pregnant women can call 1196 for free and get medical advice from doctors and in the case where an emergency is detected; they can get a free ride to hospital during curfew hours. The Wheels for Life project is a programme by a team of volunteering organizations.

With support from the European Union through a COVID-19 Response Project currently being implemented by Amref Health Africa in Kenya, the initiative is expanding to Machakos, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kiambu and Uasin Gishu Counties. Amref’s support will go towards facilitating the transportation of 3,500 pregnant women to health facilities and telemedicine support through the call centre for 36,000 women across the five counties.

“The European Union is extending a helping hand to those who are most in need, and one of the often forgotten groups is expectant mothers. This initiative will enhance access to important health information from the comfort of their homes and in emergency cases, quick access to hospitals even during curfew hours,” said EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue.

The main focus is to facilitate the movement of pregnant women from their homes to an approved health facility of choice. We also are aware that many pregnant women have questions/concerns that may be addressed via telephone by a health care provider.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 focuses on the need to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and end preventable neonatal death. In Kenya, the 2014 KDHS, recorded an estimate 362 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Key among the issues impeding its reduction is limited access to health care facilities, an impediment associated with the current night-time state curfew from 9 PM to 4 AM. The initiative encourages awareness on the road by the police for any person who states they are rushing to the hospital for any medical, obstetric or surgical emergency. They should be provided documents on return home from the hospital for validity.

Wheels for Life Partners

· Ministry of Health · European Union

· Nairobi Metropolitan Services

· Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)

· Kenya Healthcare Federation

· Kenya Healthcare Federation

· Bolt

· Telesky


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