Amref Partners with the First Lady’s Beyond Zero to End Obstetric Fistula

by Amref Health Africa

The First Lady’s Beyond Zero in partnership with Amref Health Africa in Kenya and other partners launched the integrated Medical Safari, an initiative geared towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Speaking during the launch at Narok Stadium in Narok County, the First Lady HE Mrs Margaret Kenyatta urged Narok residents to enrol into the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and Linda Mama programme emphasising her commitment to contribute to the President’s mission of Universal Health Coverage by conducting medical safaris across the country.

“We have committed to remain responsible to critical challenges by offering integrated specialised services to all groups in our life cycle; from pregnant mothers, to their babies, to adolescents, to young people, adult women, men and elderly persons,” she said.

The medical safari is part of the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Strategic Framework (2018-2022) which has nine areas of intervention that include clinical interventions for women with obstetric fistula supported by Amref Health Africa. The medical safari focused on registration and assessment of children with mental illness or intellectual impairment; enrolment of pregnant women into the Linda Mama NHIF program; eye care for older persons. Screening of cancers including the provision of routine services such as immunisation, HIV testing and counselling was also offered to Narok residents.

While calling on people to register into NHIF, the First Lady noted that she hopes to see all Kenyans protected against financial hardships associated with health care. She acknowledged the significant health care gaps that affect Kenyans and pointed out that the government and private sector still have a lot to do in order to eliminate the transmission of HIV transmission and reduce maternal mortality.

The First Lady commended the partners and stakeholders that made the Medical Safari a success. “I believe that with our shared vision and solid partnership, we will together achieve our shared goals of a healthy and prosperous nation. Thank you for making the Beyond Zero Medical Safari we are launching here today a reality.”

Present at the launch was the Health Cabinet Secretary, Ms Sicily Kariuki. In her address, she noted that the Medical Safari comes at a time when the government is working to achieve Universal Health Coverage through innovation in service delivery as part of the President’s Big 4 Agenda. “What we have witnessed here courtesy of the First Lady is innovation for service delivery. We have seen a population that was never to be reached coming out in large numbers to be screened and get free medical services on the spot. This is what we would wish for to bring us closer to UHC,” she said.

Mrs Kariuki reaffirmed the Ministry of Health’s high-level discussions on interventions that will help in eradicating neglected surgical diseases among them fistula.

The Cabinet Secretary added that attainment of UHC calls for deeper partnership between the private and public sectors, private-private partnerships, as well as between the County and National governments.

Dignity Restored

The First Lady also visited the Women’s Ward at Narok County Referral Hospital where she interacted with fistula patients, among them 30 year old Esther Matu, a mother of three children. Mary developed fistula one year ago after her childbirth. A fistula is a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum that is usually caused by prolonged or obstructed labour. Despite suffering for one year, Mary counts herself lucky. “Many women in my village suffer from this condition for years and do not know it can be cured. I am so excited that the surgeons have done a successful fistula repair, “she said.

Alongside Mary was 48 year old Rebecca Nkoisua, a mother of six children who suffered from fistula for 12 years after giving birth with the help of a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA). Rebecca who was recovering from a fistula repair surgery did not know that her condition could be cured. “I have hopes that this surgery will make me not to leak again. I am happy and proud of myself for coming out without fear to be helped.”

It is estimated that there are over 1, 000 new cases of obstetric fistula every year in Kenya whereas there are only 10 health facilities across the country that have the capacity to repair fistula. Only 7.5% of women suffering from this scourge can access treatment. Women who experience fistula are ostracized and disowned by their families and communities. Most of them face shame, isolation and social segregation.

Amref Health Africa in Kenya has so far performed 21 fistula repairs at the Narok Medical Safari and is targeted to perform 50 surgeries before the camp ends.

The partnership between Beyond Zero and Amref Health Africa in Kenya is in line with Amref’s ‘Restoring Her Dignity’ campaign that aims to increase awareness about Obstetric Fistula and raise funds for reconstructive surgery for women suffering from fistula.

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