Maternal Health in Kenya

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Yesterday, the MHTF, along with the Woodrow Wilson Center, UNFPA and the African Population and Health Research Center, held a dialogue on maternal health in Kenya that featured a discussion between experts in Washington and Nairobi. Prior to the event, workshops were held in Nairobi to develop strategies and recommendations for promoting maternal health in Kenya.

The discussion covered a number of topics, including the differences between urban and rural settings, the role of traditional birth attendants, Kenya’s future demographics, the role of the private sector, and many other topics.

The availability of data is increasing, but there continue to be areas where more research is needed that focuses specifically on maternal health issues. For example, some of the DHS questionnaires provide data on whether or not mothers use of health facilities, but are not necessarily able to determine why facilities are used or not used. Knowing why mothers do not use health facilities (inability to pay, cultural reasons, lack of transport, etc.) is crucial to develop proper interventions to improve the chances that childbirth is safe.

Given the variety of topics that were discussed, be sure to check back later for a full summary and recording of the event that will be available soon on the Wilson Center website. A briefing paper (DOC) is also available from APHRC.

While thinking about data and evidence it Kenya, it is appropriate to note that the Kenyan government recently launched a new website:

This site makes public government data accessible to the people of Kenya. High quality national census data, government expenditure, parliamentary proceedings and public service locations are just a taste of what’s to come. There’s something for everyone: maps to start exploring, interactive charts and tables for a deeper understanding, and raw data for technical users to build their own apps and analyses. Our information is a national asset, and it’s time it was shared: this data is key to improving transparency; unlocking social and economic value; and building Government 2.0 in Kenya.

Although Kenya’s critics are concerned about corruption and may not be impressed by the release of the data, Johannes Zutt, of the World Bank, is optimistic:

It’s true that the same old crowd is in control, that corruption remains Kenya’s biggest problem, and that some government officials continue to betray the trust of the citizens. But it is different today. The people have spoken. They enacted a new constitution. They are demanding accountability, and they are getting it. Ten years from now, Kenya will be a different and better place.

This morning, you can watch a webcast discussion of the launch of the site.