Kenya Documentary: Maternal and Child Health in Kenya's Largest Maternal Hospital
May 21, 2010
The Pumwani hospital in Nairobi sees approximately 27,000 births annually, making it the largest maternal care center in East and Central Africa. While this is a remarkable achievement, providing access to essential maternal and newborn health services remains a formidable challenge. The hospital’s shallow funding base is dependent upon cash payments made by patients, putting life-saving services out of reach for many poor women. Existing models for managing prenatal and postnatal care must be expanded and further developed.
Despite the obstacles, Commissioners were struck by the staff’s dedication and professionalism. Representative Keith Ellison remarked:
“The providers here are clearly passionate and well formed. It was important for me to learn, as a person who’s not a medical professional, that it is possible for children who are born to HIV positive mothers to be negative.”
Commissioner Karen Remley also commented in her reflections of the trip:
“Hospitals have remarkable similarities the world over - dedicated clinicians with little to work with are seeing patients in an organized system. But here in Kenya I had an overwhelming sense of a quiet pensiveness in staff and patients, particularly acute in the nursery where row after row of newborn babies lay very quietly. In fact, only one screamed, a vocal reminder that these babies should all be on various schedules of eating, crying, and sleeping.”
The Commission has taken a strong stance on maternal and child health, making it a top priority in the Commission’s long-term global health strategy:
“Building on the rising tide of global awareness and will, the United States should act immediately to bring about major gains in maternal and child health, together with expanded access to contraceptive commodities. A doubling of U.S. effort—to $2 billion per year—will have a catalytic impact.13 To be most effective, we need to focus patiently and deliberately on a few core countries in Africa and South Asia. This new priority for the United States will address a glaring global gap, directly contribute to building health systems, motivate others to do more, significantly enhance the well-being of the next generation of girls and women, and strengthen families, communities, and economic development.” – Commission on Smart Global Health Policy Report: A Healthier, Safer and more Prosperous World
To read more work from CSIS on the issues of family planning and maternal to child health, see expert Janet Fleischman’s papers, “Making Gender a Global Health Priority” and “International Family Planning: A Common Ground Approach to an Expanded U.S. Role”.