Written by Keerti Kalluru and Hannah Bain.
Recently, CFK senior nurse, Florence Mwaluda, of Tabitha Maternity Home was featured on KirkTV Kenya’s Health Nuggets news segment about maternal and child health amidst COVID-19. The pandemic has taken a toll on maternal and child health, as health service efforts in Kenya have been channeled primarily into combatting COVID-19. As a result, other essential services have been pushed to the sidelines, leaving the lives of mothers and children at risk. People have been experiencing more stressful pregnancies and have expressed concerns about taking the vaccine, as they feel they have not been given enough information to make the decision that is best for themselves and their baby.
“The well-being of the mother and the baby is important, and they should be healthy in all the aspects – physical, mental, and social,” said Florence.
She also emphasized the need for functioning facilities and skilled care attendants.
“You need to have people who will sit down and take you through pregnancy, have health talks, and teach you about birth plans and danger signs of pregnancy, so that you can be prepared,” Florence said.
Due to COVID-19, Florence has noticed a reduction in patients coming for maternal and child health services.
“People would come from other facilities to Tabitha Maternity Home once a month for antenatal care services and then skip the next two months before coming back again,” she said.
Maternal and Child Health as a Global Priority
The health of mothers and children has been a global priority and is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDG 2030). The maternal mortality rate is still a significant issue in Kenya at 342 per 100,000 live births. The global target as outlined in SDG 2030 is to reduce maternal mortality rate to 70 per 100,000 live births, reduce preventable deaths of newborns to 12 per 1,000 live births, and reduce deaths of children under 5 to 25 per 1,000 live births. While Kenya has made progress in the advancement of maternal and child health, risks have now widened due to the pandemic, and it is more important than ever to invest in the health of mothers and babies.
The Health Nuggets segment featured Tabitha Maternity Home with posters detailing the services offered and guidelines to encourage safe behaviors to prevent COVID-19.
“CFK has still been providing care to mothers during the pandemic,” said Florence. “We conduct talks with mothers about danger signs of pregnancy such as bleeding, reduced movement of fetus, or breaking of membranes.”
Supporting mothers during COVID-19 has its own challenges for both health workers as well as their patients.
“Nurses are dealing with burnout and fatigue plus it is hard to comfort mothers during labor with masks on, Florence highlighted.
Despite the challenges, Tabitha Maternity Home has provided services and a place to sleep for every mother that comes through the doors, whether they are in labor or not.
The Challenges of Pregnancy in Kibera During COVID-19
KirkTV also featured two CFK beneficiaries from Kibera, Immaculate Ochieng and Purity Okinda, who received maternal and child health services at Tabitha Maternity Home. They expressed challenges they faced in maintaining both their health and the health of their baby during the pandemic.
As a teenage mother, Purity faced significant barriers and accessed antenatal care services relatively late in her pregnancy, but she is now receiving high-quality services at Tabitha Maternity Home.
Immaculate shared the challenges of social distancing and maintaining good hygiene without a proper sewer system. She, like many other expectant or lactating women around the world, was also hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, expressing that mothers needed more information about the impact of the vaccine on themselves and their children.
Throughout the pandemic, CFK staff have worked to sensitize community members by sharing accurate information and dispelling myths concerning the virus as well as vaccinations, but challenges remain. Nurses at Tabitha Maternity Home, who serve as trusted healthcare providers in the community, discuss vaccination with pregnant and breastfeeding women at the facility, helping them make informed health decisions.
The segment also featured professionals from Jacaranda Maternity and Amref International University alongside CFK. It is essential to prevent a maternal and child health emergency while trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve in Kenya.
“Even as COVID has taken over, we should not forget to ensure zero maternal and neonatal deaths.” said Florence. “Our aim is still to protect the lives of mothers and children during the pandemic.”