United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban ki Moon pledges support to reduce maternal mortality in Kenya

29 June 2014

During an official visit at State House Nairobi with the President of Kenya, His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban ki Moon called for focus to be placed on the adolescent girl in order to improve maternal health.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya received a major boost when the United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon called for special focus be placed on adolescent girls in order to reduce maternal mortality and improve on the realization of MDG 5. Mr. Ban ki-Moon said this during his official visit to State House in Nairobi when he met with the President of Kenya, His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, and the First Lady, Her Excellency Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta.

In his speech, Mr. Ban ki-Moon expressed support for the First Lady's Beyond Zero Campaign, which champions an end to maternal and infant mortality through heightened advocacy and provision of mobile ambulances in all the 47 counties in Kenya.

"I [also] welcome the plan by UNFPA and the Ministry of Health to focus attention on the ten counties where maternal deaths are highest. This can strongly improve the national ratio, steer Kenya towards achieving MDG 5 and serve as a role model for the rest of Africa," Mr. Ban ki-Moon added.

In the high level event whose theme was on ending maternal mortality in Kenya, Mr. Ban ki-Moon maintained that for Kenya to triumph over maternal mortality, initiatives must focus on adolescent girls, especially those that allow girls to go to school, marry whom they choose, shield them from harmful traditional practices and provide them with appropriate family planning services.

"When an adolescent girl is safe from harm and is able to choose when to bear children, she can be saved from HIV infection, haemorrhage, obstetric complications such as obstructed labour and fistula, and death," Mr. Ban ki-Moon said.

Reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters and providing universal access to reproductive health by 2015 has been one of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the slowest progress.

"Even though we have seen advances in recent years, too many women still die in childbirth or from complications related to pregnancy. Most of these deaths are preventable," Mr. Ban ki-Moon said, adding that "a little investment in simple solutions", which can range from basic midwife training for women in villages to motorcycle ambulances in remote rural areas, can go a long way.

"Women need a safe environment to deliver with the assistance of skilled birth attendants," the Secretary-General said. He also highlighted the impact of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, on the lives of adolescent girls in Kenya, 20 per cent of whom are cut in this "barbaric practice".

Mr. Ban said the UN fully supports the Kenyan efforts, which include free maternity services, which today are serving as a "role model for the rest of Africa". 

In expressing her gratitude to Mr. Ban ki-Moon for his support to the Beyond Zero Campaign, which she said is a cause she holds dear to her heart, Her Excellency Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta pointed out that it was her responsibility as a mother to stop the wanton death of mothers as they gave birth.

"Sadly, for thousands of mothers in Kenya and around the world, having a child is tantamount to a death sentence," she said. "Thousands of children in our country grow up without the love and care of a mother [yet] the interventions needed to save women's lives during pregnancy and childbirth are already known. That is why we launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign', to reduce mother and child deaths in our country."

In choosing to run both the 42KM and 21KM marathons in London and Nairobi respectively, the First Lady said: "It was easy to choose running - for which Kenya is known globally - to raise awareness about the plight of mothers and children."

The First Lady said the funds through the Beyond Zero Campaign will be used to "purchase mobile clinics for all the 47 counties and bring better healthcare for mothers and children. Each well-equipped mobile clinic costs Kshs.10 million (USD115, 000), and we will be flagging off the first mobile clinic next month," she announced.

Leading the UN Country Team in Kenya, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, announced UNFPA's lead on delivering as one in advocating the need to drastically reduce maternal deaths in Kenya and improving Kenya's performance on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5.

As the lead UN agency in partnering with the Beyond Zero Campaign, UNFPA Kenya was honored to offer its support as the campaign brings sharp focus on its mandate to promote maternal health and safe motherhood.

Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya, affirmed this during a high level meeting held earlier in June with the First Lady at State House, Nairobi, where both strongly agreed that, "No woman should die giving life".

At the meeting, Mr. Chatterjee congratulated the First Lady on her efforts to advance maternal health in Kenya through the Beyond Zero Campaign. He also conveyed UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin's warm greetings to the First Lady.

"UNFPA plans to support the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Health and the County leadership to scale up initiatives in ten (10) of the counties that have recorded the highest maternal mortality rates in the country (between 55-60%)," said Mr. Chatterjee. UNFPA Kenya has committed to support the Ministry of Health convene a meeting of Governors, their spouses, health executives from these 10 counties and key partners to discuss the measures needed to accelerate progress on maternal health.















The First Lady was pleased to hear that UNFPA was committed to advancing maternal health and welcomed UNFPA's support to reduce maternal mortality in Kenya.

Statistics indicate that over 5,500 women in Kenya die annually due to pregnancy and birth related complications. In 2012 alone, over 100,000 children below age five died before their first birthday. In the same year, there were over 13,000 new HIV infections among children, of whom 62% did not access life-saving medication.

In the recent past, the Government of Kenya has put in place the free maternity programme alongside other efforts to ensure improved access to maternal healthcare services. The Government's policy on free healthcare services to all children below the age of five years has also improved access to quality healthcare for the very vulnerable and marginalized members of our society.

At the same time, the UN Country Team in Kenya, led by the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas, have come together and pledged to deliver as one in advocating the need to drastically reduce maternal deaths in Kenya and improving Kenya's performance on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5.