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Kenyan mothers turning away free maternal health care

The Kenyan government decided to waive the fees in the maternity wards of public hospitals. Fees ranging from $12 to $150 for a cesarean sections were swiftly eliminated on June 1. The goal was to make it so that mothers would use the facilities and give birth in hospitals. It is important because giving birth in a hospital can increase the likelihood that both the mother and child will survive the birth.

The problem is that mothers are not taking advantage of the services, reports Inter Press Service.

[A]ccording to Teresia Wangai, a qualified midwife at a regional hospital, the fee waiver has not led to an increase in women giving birth at hospitals.

“We expected to receive more expectant mothers, but I have delivered fewer babies this month. Many women seem to have stayed clear of government health facilities for fear that the fee waiver will worsen the quality of health care,” she tells IPS.

While medical doctors like Dr. Joachim Osur believe that scrapping the maternity fee is a step in the right direction, myths and misconceptions still held by mothers like Awino continue to influence their decision to use traditional birth attendants and deliver at home.

“The World Health Organization does not recommend that traditional birth attendants assist in delivery. In fact, a woman is more at risk of dying at the hands of a traditional midwife than if nobody was attending to her,” Osur, a reproductive health speacialist, tells IPS.

He says that while up to 92 percent of expectant mothers in Kenya attend antenatal care, more than half of them do not deliver in hospitals.

“When only about 46 percent of expectant mothers are delivering in hospital, the risk of death as a result of a pregnancy will remain high,” he says.

“In some regions such as Kenya’s Nyanza and Western provinces, about 75 percent of women do not deliver in hospital,” he says.

The problem seems to be that the hospitals are not well equipped and staffed. Kenya still spends only a meager amount of its federal budget on health. The article hints at the fact that allegations of mistreatment by hospital staff is well known. That may contribute to mothers staying away from hospitals when it comes time to give birth. Now that the fees are gone, Kenya will have to figure out how to get women into the hospitals.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]