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Challenges Of Access Remain Under Kenya’s Free Maternity Services

“Kenyans welcomed with excitement when President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered that maternity fees for mothers who deliver in public hospitals be abolished” on June 1, but “the celebrative mood was short lived as people started to realize that the challenges go far beyond a waived fee,” Xinhua reports. “While hailing it as a noble idea of the government, residents now say it only scrapes the top of a bigger problem that is related to maternity health, especially in the remote areas of Kenya’s northeastern region,” the news service writes. Xinhua examines existing challenges, noting statistics from the Garissa Provincial General Hospital (PGH) “show that only five percent of the population in the northeastern region have access to health facilities for delivery.” PGH’s matron Khatra Ali “said that the hospital had a shortage of about 150 nurses and out of the 74 nurses currently at the hospital, only 12 were assigned to the maternity ward, a rate well short of the one recommended by the [WHO],” the news service writes (Ingati/Mangera, 7/8). Inter Press Service examines why, “according to Teresia Wangai, a qualified midwife at a regional hospital, the fee waiver has not led to an increase in women giving birth at hospitals,” noting some women prefer to use traditional birth attendants and deliver at home due to concerns about the quality of care at government health facilities (Gathigah, 7/9).