Unreliable Maternal Healthcare in Njoro
Duke was born in Olenguruone district in Nakuru County, Kenya. Like most of his peers, he was born at home because not only was the nearest hospital hundreds of miles from his village, his mother couldn’t afford the cost of transportation to get there.
Duke faced a lot of challenges growing up, with an absent father leaving Duke’s mother behind as the main breadwinner. His mother provided for the family by selling groceries in the market while Duke’s grandmother attended to him and his sister. His grandmother was often sick, causing Duke to miss school at least twice a week. Despite the challenges, Duke managed to get into university to study finance and banking. It was there that he met Brian, a friend who introduced him to the ideas of active citizenship and changemaking. Duke began to think about how he can apply what he learned to help his community, but it wasn’t until he witnessed a harrowing incident that he decided to become a changemaker.
One day while walking home from school, Duke saw a young mother giving birth by the roadside with the assistance of two other women. The woman was wailing and clearly in a lot of pain and the other two women were struggling to support her as they did not have the equipment and resources needed to deliver her baby safely. The image disturbed Duke and took him back to the story of his own birth, often narrated to him by his mother, who with no access to a hospital or a healthcare facility, had a dangerous and painful experience with delivery.
An estimated 6,300 women die annually during pregnancy and childbirth in Kenya, according to the National Council of Population and Development - a tragic number that reflects inadequate progress toward providing essential health services to all women. Pregnant women in Kenya die mostly because they either do not receive appropriate care during pregnancy or are unable to deliver with the help of skilled health attendants such a doctor, nurse or a midwife. And despite measures introduced in 2013 by the Kenyan government to eliminate the costs of maternal healthcare, accessibility to healthcare facilities continues to be a struggle for many women who live in rural areas where the nearest facility is hundreds of miles away.
This was the case for the women in Duke’s village and he wanted to help solve this problem. He quickly decided that in order to improve maternal health care in his village, he would have to address the lack of education on maternal health among expectant women, and the lack of training on safe delivery practices among midwives in his village. He would also have to procure and provide these women with hygienic and sanitary tools and resources, like clean towels, for example, because the majority still use banana leaves instead.
And while Duke had the support and mentoring of the Peace First Sub-Saharan Africa team, many of the women in the village were resistant to the idea of changing how things have always been done. But he was adamant and continued to hold workshops and to go door to door and talk to as many expectant mothers as he could. He also sought the collaboration of the Kenya Free Maternal Health Care Services organization and they helped by providing resources and tools to support Duke’s initiative.
“This initiative is critical since it involves those who are the backbone of our existence - our mothers,” says Duke. To date, 50 women have attended the initiative’s workshops and online webinars, and he intends to keep going until every woman in his village has access to reliable maternal healthcare.
Watch Duke speak more about his project in the April episode of the Sub-Saharan Africa live show on Instagram.