Reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality in Kenya
Every year, 74,000 children in Kenya die before reaching the age of 5 years, of this 46% are neonatal deaths.
Most childhood deaths in Kenya are largely preventable and occur before the first birthday. Three (3) in 10 children are not fully protected against the scheduled vaccine-preventable childhood diseases by the age of one year. Children born in remote rural areas, urban informal settlements and to women with limited education are at highest risk. In most cases, children from these communities die because their families are too poor or marginalised to access the care they need. In addition, Kenya still has a relatively high rate of maternal mortality, at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Although Kenya has made significant progress in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality, neonatal death reduced from 31 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008/9 to 22 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, and under-five child mortality reduced from 74 per 1000 live births in 2008/9 to 52 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 (KDHS, 2014), disparities in the quality, accessibility and affordability of healthcare remain a major challenge, hence most vulnerable and deprived mothers and children are denied their right to survive and thrive.
In many instances the healthcare system in Kenya is faced with challenges including an insufficient and poorly distributed workforce; inadequate skills, practices and experience of healthcare staff; weak planning, management and financial systems within the context of a devolutioned health system. A significant number of Health facilities are not fully functional, with many lacking electricity, water, essential medical equipment and supplies. Poor quality of maternal, newborn and child health services remains a hindrance to Kenya achieving Sustainable Development Goal three (SDG 3) and ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths.
UNICEF Kenya is committed to supporting the Government of Kenya to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), with is 1 of the government’s top 4 priorities as part of the “Big 4” agenda. UHC presents an opportunity for children and women to access their inalienable right to health as entrenched in the Kenyan Constitution, regardless of their income, who they are or where they live. UNICEF Kenya’s strategic partnerships, health systems strengthening approach and building the resilience of the health system at all levels including primary health care and community platforms is expected to contribute to universal health coverage in Kenya.
The 2018 – 2022 UNICEF Kenya Country Programme will effectively support the Government of Kenya to increase the proportion of vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating women, with equitable access to quality health services. UNICEF in Kenya will continue focusing on reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality by introducing and scaling up high impact interventions with a focus on immunisation maternal and newborn health, and primary/community health. Through communication for development, UNICEF will continue helping mothers and care givers understand the value of maternal, newborn and child health services and aims to increase prevention and timely treatment of diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea using primary health care and community-based approaches. The focus will continue to be on disadvantaged counties, ensuring that health workers have improved resources and skills to provide quality care and counselling on maternal care, common childhood illnesses and immunization and that communities and caretakers are empowered to demand the provision of quality and equitable health care.
UNICEF in Action, 2014 - 2018
UNICEF supported the immunisation of over 34 million children against twelve vaccine preventable diseases, including measles, rubella and polio.
Over 2,683,000 children under 5 received health services in their home, including for treatment of diarrhea, fever and malaria.
UNICEF supported and trained over 1,200 community health workers to implement integrated community-based management programmes.
UNICEF reached 721,560 out of 780,000 children under five with life-saving emergency health interventions during the protracted health workers industrial action in Kenya in 2017 thereby contributing to saving lives.