Wednesday, 07 December 2011 09:45

KENYA: Take Maternal Health Seriously, MPs Urged

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Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim has urged MPs to ensure that voices of women and children are taken into account in government policies.

He said the MPs should do this through legislation and preparation of private member bills. Universal access to essential care will only be attained if MPs play their role effectively, he said.

Maalim was speaking yesterday in Nairobi when he opened a two-day parliamentary retreat on Maternal, New born and Child health, which brought together legislators and health players. He said a lot of challenges are posed by lack of progress in maternal and child health. "Close collaboration and partnership are imperative to gaining leverage towards reversing this worrying trend," Maalim said.

The retreat is expected to serve as a launch for a joint project between Parliament and the Inter-parliamentary Union on maternal, newborn and child health. It is further expected to provide a framework and platform for dialogue in reversing the high child and maternal mortality.

Maalim attributed the slow improvement in health to low funding. "Health expenditure is allocated a paltry six percent of the national budget against the expected 15 per cent as per Abuja declaration," he said.

He said research indicates that 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births occur in Kenya, a trend he said threatens the attainment of MDGs four and five by 2015. "As elected leaders, we must strive to develop practical interventions that will address factors that contribute to slow progress of achieving maternal health and eliminating child mortality."

He challenged the government to invest in women empowerment initiatives such as micro credit and education programs, and further address poor policy implementation and weak health systems in the country. "We must lead from the front in efforts directed at ensuring sustainable development through sustained good health," he said, adding that measures must be employed to enable access and utilization of preventive and curative services.

Maalim challenged parliamentarians to champion the interests and needs of the electorate. "Let us listen to their sentiments and provide them with long-term and cost-effective health care solutions." Reiterating the need to accelerate the implementation process, Maalim said a lot still needs to be done to beat the 2015 deadline, by addressing shortcomings that hamper the intended progress.

Regretting the least strides undertaken in addressing the two MDGs, Maalim said, "Not keeping the promises we made may cost us." He appealed for an all-inclusive approach in tackling the problem. He called for change in prioritization in resources, political will and commitment, as well as shift in policy in the provision of health care to advance the cause of quality care. "In so doing you will have alleviated the suffering of majority of the women in this country while we protect future generations by reducing child mortality."

Source: Nairobi Star (Nairobi, Kenya)

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