By Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health, Kenya
International Women’s Day is a time when we celebrate women; our mothers, wives, sisters, aunties, nieces and colleagues. We celebrate their achievements and act towards improving their lives.
This year we are marking the day under the global theme ‘Choose to challenge’. It aims to capture the need for us all to explore solutions to the challenges that women face.
In reflecting on the healthcare challenges that are specific to women, we are acutely aware that many factors affect women’s access to healthcare, especially during childbirth. We still lose too many women due to preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. While the global average of maternal mortality is 211 per 100,000, Kenya’s maternal mortality is on average 342 per 100,000.
It has been stated that “no woman should die while giving life”. The Ministry of Health has over the last five years put in place policy measures to ensure women are protected during pregnancy and childbirth. To address the financial constraints of accessing healthcare, the Linda Mama Programme provides a valuable safety net.
In addition to these measures, the ministry is aware that postpartum haemorrhage or excessive bleeding after childbirth is the leading cause of maternal mortality, accounting for more than 35 per cent of all our maternal deaths. Availability of adequate and safe blood for every mother at their point of need is therefore essential in keeping mothers alive.
I have in the past expressed my commitment to ensuring the availability of safe blood and blood products countrywide. During this International Women’s Day, I reaffirm this commitment to ensure that we keep mothers alive.
I, therefore, invite all Kenyans to #choose to challenge by stepping into the National Blood Satellites across the counties to donate blood. This will allow the Blood Transfusion Service to test, process and distribute blood and blood products to at least 500 transfusing hospitals managed by county governments and private hospitals, all of which offer maternity services.
Four weeks ago, I appointed Kenya’s Blood Ambassadors, Mr Kennedy Sanya and Aisha Dafalla, who have donated blood a combined total of 152 times, to save the lives of fellow Kenyans. It is recommended that on average a healthy man can safely donate blood four times a year and a woman three times a year.
These ambassadors demonstrate that blood donation is safe. The Health Ministry has developed guidelines for blood management in the context of Covid-19.
To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the ministry through the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services, has partnered with county governments, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, the Coalition of Blood for Africa, Amref Health Africa, the Kenya Red Cross, LVCT Health, Lifebank, Lwala Community Alliance, Maisha Youth, Pledge25, Options UK and Bidco Africa Limited to conduct a three-day blood drive across Kenya.
I invite you all to choose to challenge yourself. Commit to Keeping a Mother Alive by donating blood in one of the 32 sites across the country, including Uhuru Park in Nairobi.
Article first published on Standard Media