Kenya Governors make landmark commitment to save lives of women and girls

28 August 2014

Fifteen governors from Mandera, Turkana, Wajir, Migori, Nakuru, Siaya, Kisumu, Nairobi, Homabay, Kakamega, Garissa, Marsabit, Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu heed the clarion call "no woman should die while giving life" and boldly declare to promote safe motherhood in their respective counties.

Fifteen governors today made a commitment to reduce the high rate of maternal deaths in their respective counties.

The commitment, which was signed at the Boma Hotel, Nairobi followed a consultative forum with the Council of Governors that reviewed the status of maternal health in Kenya, is a major milestone for Kenyans as the county leaders pledged to increase efforts to reduce the maternal mortality in the country.

"The Council of Governors agree with the First Lady, Her Excellency Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, that no more women should die while giving life," said Hon, Isaac Ruto, the Chairman of the Council of Governors and the Governor of Bomet County at the commitment ceremony.

The communiqué was ceremoniously signed by the Governors of Mandera, Turkana, Wajir, Migori, Nakuru, Siaya, Kisumu, Nairobi, Homabay, Kakamega, Garissa, Marsabit, Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu, the 15 counties with the highest burden of maternal deaths in the country, contributing 98.7% of the total maternal deaths in Kenya.

"Health being a devolved function, Governors are today responsible for the promotion and protection of the wellbeing of its citizenry and, as a result, we must ensure that the right to life for every man, woman and child is safeguarded," Governor Ruto added. "There can be no negotiation on the improvement of quality healthcare for our mothers and newborn. Maternal healthcare is a primary concern for all Kenyans and as Governors, we shall strive to provide a safe environment for our mothers to deliver and ensure that our health centers are equipped to do so. Through our County Departments of Health, we shall initiate campaigns and initiatives to encourage all expectant mothers to seek proper medical attention during pregnancy and especially at delivery."

The signing ceremony was overseen by the Cabinet Secretary of Health, Hon. Mr. James Macharia, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya, Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, and the Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Dr. Abbas Gullet. Also witnessing this momentous occasion were heads of agencies from the World Bank Group, USAID, UKAID, UNICEF, World Health Organization and tens of delegates.

With Kenya's maternal mortality rate being significantly high at 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, the communiqué was a welcome move towards drastically improving maternal health in Kenya and saving the lives of thousands of women and girls.

"We, therefore declare today that as the first elected Governors of Kenya, we shall embrace and jointly own the Beyond Zero Campaign in all our respective counties as the First Lady launches mobile clinics nationwide to increase the chances of life for majority of our mothers," declared Governor Ruto on behalf of the country's governors. "Today's meeting is not the beginning but rather a strengthening of  partnerships between the Council of Governors and the Ministry of Health, the First Lady's Beyond Zero Campaign, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other stakeholders, including international organizations and the private sector to implement measures and strategies that will significantly reduce maternal deaths in Kenya," he added.

Below is the commitment that the 15 governors signed to:

1.    Recognize that Kenya has made substantial progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, with the exception of MDG 5 (maternal health). We are concerned that the maternal mortality ratio for Kenya of 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births has not shown any improvement over the last two decades.

2.    Recognize the urgent need for scaled-up action and targeted interventions by improving access to quality healthcare for women, newborns and child health, particularly in the high-burden counties but subsequently to be rolled out across the country-in order to accelerate progress on MDG 5.

3.    Recognize that maternal, newborn and child health, and the survival of mothers and their newborns, are central to development; the empowerment of women to make informed choices are critical to improving the health of women, families and communities; and that adolescent girls have a higher chance of dying in pregnancy and childbirth and face grave barriers to life-saving information and services.

4.    Recall the Consensus Statement of the Global Country Consultation on Targets and Strategies for Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) of April 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand, that recognized EPMM is within reach, and that necessary acceleration of progress can be achieved by positioning maternal survival in the context of every woman's right to healthcare and the highest attainable level of health across the lifespan.

5.    Recall the World Health Assembly Resolution of May 2014 on the Global Newborn Action Plan (WHA67.10) that commits to end preventable newborn deaths, and preventable stillbirths, through investments in high-quality care before, during, and following childbirth.

6.    Recognize the urgent need to scale up action by improving access to quality healthcare for women, newborns and child health irrespective of the geographic location.

7.    Build on the momentum of the First Lady's Beyond Zero Campaign that is about saving lives of Kenyan mothers and children.

8.    Recognize that adolescent girls must be at the center of our policies and programmes; and we have the largest youth generation and we must empower them to become agents of change.

9.    Share innovative and best practices implemented across countries and key strategies that County Governments need to undertake to accelerate the reduction of maternal and newborn deaths. We commit to collectively scale up support to and strengthen reproductive, maternal and newborn health systems in our respective counties where needs are greatest and rea­rm our commitment to stay focused on this ‘un‑finished' MDG 5 agenda and reach those with least access - the most marginalized, disadvantaged populations, including women and girls.

10. Enhance high-level advocacy and sensitize local authorities on the urgency to improved and equitable access to maternal, newborn and reproductive healthcare, including the elimination of harmful traditional and cultural practices.

11.  Increase county-level investments in healthcare and ensure adequate human and financial resources towards maternal and newborn health.

12.  Uphold the principles of equity, human-rights, gender equality that guide the provision and access of high-quality maternal and newborn healthcare for all.

13.  Improve the healthcare infrastructure to support the delivery of emergency obstetric and newborn care services.

14.  Strengthen data collection, analysis, documentation and information use for evidence in tracking progress in the implementation of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.

15.  Undertake a multi-sectoral approach for the improvement of infrastructure to support access to roads and transportation, clean water and sanitation, and appropriate nutrition.

16.  Strengthen public-private partnerships at all levels to leverage resources for addressing maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.

17.  Invest in the health and development of adolescents and youth, with a particular focus on successful transition of the adolescent girl to secondary level education.

18.  Recognize that investment in Family Planning is the most cost-effective intervention for the reduction of maternal deaths, and population development.

19.  We commit, together with partners, to improve the health and well-being of women and children, reduce poverty and advance sustainable development.