Kenyan Mothers and Babies Project

Recently Holy Trinity raised £950 for this project. Below is a report on a talk about the project.:

CHRISTIAN AID- HULL & DISTRICT 

GOOD NEWS FROM THE KENYAN MOTHERS & BABIES PROJECT

Rodney Kaleke, a male nurse and midwife, the coordinator of the project in Narok County, was in the north of England in early March. He was able to visit Hull, and in talking to a group at Cottingham on 6th March, and later at the Volunteers’ Day in Leeds, we heard the good news of how mothers’ and babies’ lives are being saved.

Narok County, like much of Kenya, is a poor rural area. About one million Masai people live there, mainly in very small villages. There is no running clean water, and  no electricity. It is usual in most Kenyan rural areas for women to give birth in their homes, which are very simple, often mud huts.’ Giving birth in rural Kenya is a dangerous experience’. Tragically it is not surprising that the national poverty statistics for Kenya include

1)      Approximately 40 women a day die of birth complications

2)      14-15000 babies die each year in the first 24 hours of life

In Narok county as in several regions many children are not named for the first few months because ‘they may not live and so don’t need a name’.

The project several churches are supporting through Christian Aid is tackling this heart breaking situation. Initial support has been building and equipping, simply but hygienically, nine clinics for ante natal work and deliveries; two ambulances to take women, often after labour has begun, to the nearest clinic; and the retraining of traditional birth attendants. Our reactions at the two meetings revealed how much we in a rich country have to learn. 

‘How had women managed before there were these clinics?’  Some had managed to walk, usually about 20 miles to some form of medical help, about the time of giving birth. Many had not survived birth complications.

‘ Couldn’t the government have provided these ambulances?’  The area would have waited up to ten years for an ambulance.  The ambulances provided by the project are robust vehicles, good on mud tracks and rough bush country, equipped so they can be used as a simple delivery room if a baby is born on the way to the clinic. There is a 24 hour service- a wonderful change in Kenya. Remember mobile phones are now widely available in many African countries. There are volunteer community health workers, and they have been provided with mobile phones if they did not have these.

Hearing about the careful work to retrain the elderly women who traditionally help women to deliver their babies showed how well the project is drawing in the whole community. Previously birth attendants had no training. Now they encourage pregnant women to go to a clinic for some check ups, to plan to have the baby at the clinic, or to have cleaner conditions for the baby to be born at home. The project issues Mother and Baby packs, with a baby blanket, nappies, a towel and sanitary pads. All this shows what care means, and that the community, including us, care about mothers and babies surviving.

 We expressed surprise that there were male midwives. Rodney explained that there are men trained as nurses and so can be trained as midwives: few women have the education for a nurse’s training.

In the first year of this project all mothers and babies born have survived, and are living healthily! Hallelujah!

Linked to the transformation in many families’ lives are improvements and joys. Mothers more often meet in groups to encourage each other: they have been taught more about diet, and the value of growing vegetables, both for their children’s health, and to sell. Masai fathers, who traditionally did not do anything with babies until they could walk, are gradually taking a new role in the care of all their children. A photograph of a couple with the father holding the tiny baby for baptism marked this cultural change.

This region is one where female genital mutilation has been practised. Now there are many women who understand this practice must stop. The approach to family planning is changing too. When your children survive you don’t think of large families to ensure three or four will live to look after you in old age.  In fact the region is able to hope for longer and better lives. No wonder the churches are at the heart of this project.

Please note that your church will receive regular reports from Christian Aid on this project. Those of us who met Rodney Kaleke had a wonderful experience of hearing more about the extent and value of the scheme.

Sylvia Usher

Contact information; 01482 448065  and usher@usher.karoo.co.uk