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Sustaining Access to Maternity Services in Nairobi City County During Covid-19

The Pumwani Maternity Hospital is the biggest and specialized health facility dedicated to maternity and new born care in Kenya, handling an average of 120 deliveries per day. Normal and caesarian deliveries, including referral cases from other hospitals are handled at the hospital.

Most Nairobi born residents trace their birth to this hospital, which continues to play a critical role in ensuring access to quality obstetric care for middle and low income households in the city and its environs.

“The catchment area for Pumwani Hospital are mostly low income and informal settlements in Nairobi and the surrounding counties. This is a hospital where women arrive with barely anything to support the imminent delivery other than the hope of walking back home with a bouncing baby,”says Esther Kiambati, the Nairobi City County Reproductive Health Coordinator. She added that the free maternity services offered under the Linda Mama Programme and fees waivers have made it popular with many resource deprived households struggling to access quality maternal and child health.

The multifaceted effects of Covid-19 on the health sector in Kenya have been sorely faced at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. Due to inadequate personal protection equipment, a portion of health workers at the hospital tested positive for Covid-19 which precipitated a go-slow among workers for fear of continued infection risk. There is concern about mothers giving birth at home, fearing Covid-19 infection in health facility settings.

UNFPA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services have moved swiftly to address the challenges faced by the iconic maternity and newborn health facility. To ensure reduction in Covid-19 infections among health care workers, UNFPA donated assorted PPEs and consumables, and mama kits to the hospital for newly delivered mothers facing the severe economic vagaries triggered by Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has largely affected SRH services, but today we are thankful for the donation of PPEs and mama kits that will go a long way in the training of our staff,” said Dr. Beth Maina, the Deputy Medical Superintendent at Pumwani Hospital. Dr. Oluga, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Chief Officer of Health echoed these sentiments, stressing that UNFPA’s support in the fight against Covid-19 contributed immensely to ensuring the safety of women and girls, ultimately achieving the goal of preventable maternal deaths.

Reducing maternal mortality, a major target under sustainable development goals, is at the heart of Kenya’s development vision that seeks to achieve universal health coverage by 2022. The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey showed that maternal mortality is 362/100,000 live births which the country aims to reverse through flagship initiatives like the Linda Mama Programme under which women receive free maternity and newborn care services.

The Pumwani Maternity Hospital is pivotal to the realization of sexual and reproductive rights in Kenya, playing a strategic role in catalyzing achievement 

of commitments made by the country during the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit. Kenya committed during historic event to eliminate preventable maternal and newborn mortality, mother to child transmission of HIV and severe morbidity such as obstetric fistula among women by 2030. “UNFPA recognizes the reality of Covid-19 which should not overshadow the promise of posterity resident in the availability and quality of maternal and child health services for all women. Our signature duty is to take practical steps that achieve the safety and well-being of all women seeking services in health facilities on the

basis of knowledge and choice. No woman should die while giving life!” said the UNFPA Kenya Country Representative, Dr. Ademola Olajide during the event.

Maternal health is the backbone of community health and critical determinant of social and economic progress that should never be surpassed in any hierarchy of priorities.