Kenya’s Maternal Death Rate May Fall Thanks to Free Services for Women

July 22, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, News

Kenya’s Maternal Death Rate May Fall Thanks to Free Services for Women
By Katy Migiro, 15 July 2013

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenya’s dire maternal death rate may finally fall thanks to the introduction last month of free maternity services for women, with some hospitals reporting a 50 percent increase in deliveries.

But experts say more needs to be done to tackle backstreet abortions, improve access to contraceptives and educate women to further reduce deaths.

Kenya’s maternal mortality rate rose to 488 per 100,000 live births from 414 between 2003 and 2008/9. The country will not meet the Millennium Development Goal of a 75 percent drop in deaths between 1990 and 2015.

The number of women giving birth in government health facilities has risen significantly since it introduced free maternity services on June 1.

“It’s around a 10 percent [increase in deliveries] around the country,” Shahnaz Sharif, the government’s director of public health and sanitation, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “In some places it’s high. Busia County was a 50 percent increase.”

Giving birth with the help of a trained professional is critical for reducing maternal mortality, defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination from a cause related to the pregnancy.

But 56 percent of Kenyan women give birth at home.

The main reasons women gave for not delivering in a health facility were that services were too far away or there was no transport (42 percent), that it was unnecessary (21 percent), that their labour was too quick to have time to get there (18 percent) and that services were too expensive (17 percent).


In Nairobi’s Pumwani maternity hospital – the largest facility in the country – there was joy among mothers when the free maternity services were announced.

“A lot of women named their children after the president and the first lady,” said Wambui Waithaka, a doctor working there.

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