Kenya maternal deaths: Where are the bodies?

By Gatonye Gathura

Kenya’s largest search for women dying while giving birth has produced only 945 bodies of the alleged 8,000 annual deaths.

Donor backed estimates puts annual maternal deaths in Kenya at between 6,000 and 8,000 but the national data collection platform showed less than 1,000.

This means either the District Health Information System (DHIS) has totally failed or the estimates are highly exaggerated.

“It is like a 24 capacity public vehicle crashing every day and all the passengers perishing, and yet Kenyans are not angry enough,” a senior official with the Ministry of Health said on national television on Friday.

The official was discussing a national study, released last week by the Ministry of Health on maternal deaths in Kenya.

The report: Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Death in Kenya covered maternal deaths that occurred in 2014. It was funded by UKaid and coordinated by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK.

The study was supposed to be a most comprehensive account on maternal deaths in Kenya confirming the routinely quoted estimates, causes, distribution and possible mitigation measures.

To do so the study depended on the national digital data collection platform District Health Information System (DHIS) launched in Kenya in 2011.

DHIS also operational in more than 60 countries mainly in Africa and Asia, is a routine medical data reporting tool and covers all health facilities in Kenya.

However according to the new maternal deaths report the DHIS only captured 945 maternal deaths through-out Kenya in 2014.

This against the 8,000 annual estimates puts into question whether the DHIS has failed or Kenya is working on highly inflated maternal death estimates.

Some of the key recommendations in the new report are for health facilities to invest more in contraceptives and safe abortion facilities.

The maternal deaths’ report was launched alongside a second study which showed Kenya’s public health facilities to be spending excessively in treating post abortion complications.

This second report: The Costs of Treating Unsafe Abortion Complications in Public Health Facilities in Kenya puts the cost at about US$6.3 million annually.

The study was carried out and published by the US supported pro-abortion groups – the African Population and Health Research Center and IPAS but curiously adopted by Kenya’s Ministry of Health.

Of all the nine study team members indicated in the publication which appears in the social networking site Researchgate none is from the Ministry of Health.

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