Sparking Change, Saving Lives: Amref Health Africa and Governors Launch Bold Initiative to Tackle Maternal and Newborn Deaths in Kenya

by Amref Health Africa

28 March 2024, Nairobi, Kenya: In a bold stride towards reducing the high rates of maternal and newborn mortality in Kenya and accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments, Amref Health Africa in Kenya launches the Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) Big Bet initiative, aptly named Sparking Change, Saving Lives – Quality Healthcare for Moms and Babies. This groundbreaking initiative was unveiled at a high-profile roundtable meeting held at Villa Rossa Kempinski, bringing together Governors from various counties, particularly those grappling with high maternal and newborn deaths.

The Maternal and Newborn health Big Bet aims to forge new alliances to spearhead investment and execution of transformative strategies, with a resolute focus on enhancing the survival and well-being of expectant mothers and newborns in Kenyan counties. Investments are needed to achieve these ambitious targets. Furthermore, the initiative endeavours to enlist the support of Kenyan governors, particularly from regions burdened with high maternal and newborn deaths, to champion maternal health and accord it paramount importance within their jurisdictions. In this initial phase, we will collaborate with counties that face the greatest burden. They include – Tana River, Garissa, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Machakos, Homabay, Siaya, Wajir, Kilifi, Murang’a, Makueni, Migori, and Turkana counties.

Despite commendable strides in improving maternal and newborn health in Kenya, recent statistics from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS, 2022) on the maternal mortality ratio currently stands at 355 per 100,000 live births, and the Neonatal mortality rate stands at 21 per 1000 live births. These figures are far from the SDG target of 70 per 100,000 live births and 12 per 1000 live births by 2030. Notably, 24 health facilities across the 13 counties contribute significantly to the persistently high rates of maternal and neonatal deaths in Kenya (Kenya Health Information System).

Under the Maternal and Newborn Health Big Bet, Amref Health Africa has identified four pivotal game-changers aimed at addressing the high number of deaths, ensuring healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries in 60 referral health facilities across high-burden counties. These game-changers include the establishment of High Response Maternity.

Units, strengthening response systems for neonatal emergencies, strengthening Primary Health Care, and strengthening accountability for every mother and newborn.

“To achieve the set target, ecosystem players must make greater investments in maternal and newborn health,” said Dr Meshack Ndirangu, Country Director of Amref Health Africa in Kenya.

Dr. Ndirangu also underscored the strategic alignment of these game-changers with Amref’s 2023-2030 strategic plan, which aims to transform the health of communities through Primary Health Care with a focus on women and young people. Furthermore, it aligns with the Kenyan Government’s commitment towards the realization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and commitment to Ending Preventable Maternal Mortalities and the Every Newborn Action Plan.

Speaking during the launch, H.E. Wisley Kipyegon Rotich, Governor, Elgeyo Marakwet County expressed optimism in achieving zero maternal mortality in Kenya and thanked Amref for the leadership. “We are grateful to Amref Health Africa for their support in driving us towards zero preventable maternal and child deaths. Drawing from the Ministry of Health’s insights, we, the governors and health committee, commit to support the MNH Big Bet Initiative and work towards zero maternal mortality rates in our counties,” he said.

“To achieve this, it is crucial to leverage on data-driven approach, leveraging AI enabled data analytics within heath management systems for targeted interventions. Blanket interventions are no longer sufficient. Additionally, we acknowledge the importance of infrastructure development, including a strong network of Community Health Promoters (CHPs) – our true ambassadors in the field,” said Governor Rotich.

Investing in maternal and newborn health transcends moral obligation; it represents a savvy financial decision. According to the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescent’s Health 2016-2030, every US$1 invested yields a remarkable return of US$9 in economic and social benefits. Notably, households affected by maternal mortality expend approximately one-third of their annual per capita consumption expenditure on healthcare, underscoring the urgent need for targeted interventions to break the cycle of poverty resulting from maternal mortality.

Notes to Editors:

About Amref Health Africa in Kenya

Amref Health Africa is an international non-governmental and non-profit organization headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Our work in Kenya is guided by the promise of improving the lives of disadvantaged people through better health, bridging gaps between communities, health systems and governments, being a leading force for advocacy for health system reforms, providing thought leadership in health and establishing training programs.

Amref Kenya’s new eight-year strategic plan (2023 – 2030) takes on a strategic and innovative approach to enhancing the achievement of Lasting Health Change in Africa through people-centred primary healthcare systems and addressing social determinants of health.

Media Contacts:

Maureen Cherongis, Media and External Relations Lead, Amref Health Africa Maureen.Cherongis

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