Bridging Clean Water to Maternal Health
Yesterday, on the Carbon for Water campaign trail, we met with Francis Odhiambo, the provincial public health officer of the Western Province in Kenya. He had a great impact in helping connect the dots between having safe drinking water, combating diseases and women having safe pregnancies and deliveries. Mr. Francis Odhiambo believed strongly that women suffer twice as much as men on health issues relating to water borne disease because of their daily activities and chores around the house and for their families. Women not only face the hardship of looking for nonexistent safe water, but they also have to trek miles to get stream water and firewood for boiling it. In his words during the interaction with the two Women Bloggers Deliver winners, Mr. Odhiambo explained that the LifeStraw public health intervention by Vestergaard Frandsen would go a long way in supporting the already stretched government health facilities in the Western Province.
A visit to Emusanda Health Centre, a health clinic built by Vestergaard Frandsen, brought to light many other concerns in relation to maternal health. In our interaction with James Okwiri, who has being living with HIV for the past 7 years, the clinic has saved many local residents from having to travel a long distance to the hospital in Kakamega. Not only do they find the treatments at the health center life-saving, they also consider the plan by Vestergaard Frandsen to build a maternity ward at Emusanda a much needed intervention.
The overarching issue on maternal and child mortality has had its effect on this community. Ms. Sinafu Mapesa, a woman living with HIV, explained the danger of home delivery and how a lack of access to skilled care has claimed the lives of many women. She experienced post-partum hemorrhage during one of her deliveries, but she was lucky to have her bleeding stop. Many other women were never that lucky. She stressed the importance of having a maternity ward in her community that can attend to pregnant women, most especially women living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Brenda Opika who has an 11-year-old HIV positive child, shared her pain that she never got tested for HIV when she was pregnant. She said that she wished she had the information and knowledge to lower the risk of transmission of HIV by delivering through caesarian section. Not only was she excited that many women would now have the care and education she never received at a new maternity ward, she is ready to volunteer to assist pregnant women that might be living with HIV.
Only 44% of women in Kenya deliver with skilled birth attendants and the maternal mortality ratio is 560 deaths per 100,000 live births. The interactions and visitations with the authority on public health issues and people of Kakamega showed me the story behind these statistics. To attain the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, (Reducing Child Mortality Rates and Improving Maternal Health) especially with so many preventable cases, a much need maternity ward will be a round peg in a round hole for the people of Emusanda in Western Province Kenya.
"The provision of a 24 hours running maternity health centre would help pregnant women at Emusanda Community" – Pelista Chibole