Hope for Lamu expectant mothers as County starts building a maternal shelter

Lamu County has signed a deal with Safaricom to build a maternal shelter for expectant mothers./Natasha Nema

Lamu, KENYA: The County governments of Lamu and the Safaricom Foundation have signed a Sh.6.8 Million deal for the establishment of the first ever maternal health shelter that will enable pregnant women in the region have easy and fast access to skilled birth attendants.

Following the launch of the ground works on Friday, construction work for the shelter which is being set up at the Witu Health centre in Lamu West, has already commenced.

The shelter will be a relief for women from remote and terror prone areas who have been unable to access maternal health care whenever they are pregnant.

These women have been forced to endure painful home deliveries at the hands of unskilled traditional attendants, a situation that had led to an increase in maternal and infant deaths in the region.

The shelter will offer a temporary home and also act as a waiting and observation centre for pregnant women who will be allowed to board there as they wait to deliver their babies under the watchful eye of professional maternal caregivers.

Speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony at Witu town, Safaricom Foundation Trustee Janice Mwendameru said pregnant mothers will be allowed to stay at the facility at least 10 days before their due date to allow for close monitoring and help.

The shelter which is expected to be ready and done by January 2019.

“With this approach we are sure to guarantee hospital delivery for mothers and also reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths normally caused when these mothers are attended to by traditional attendants who have no clue what to do when an emergency arises. We are aware of mothers who ride motorbikes to get to hospital,that’s risky for the mother and baby,” said Mwendameru.

According to statistics obtained from the Lamu County Health office,at least 200 mothers attend antenatal clinics at the Witu Health centre every month, but less than 15 of this number come back to deliver at the facility.

In June this year,the foundation launched a Sh.44 Million Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program which is to be implemented over a period of three years in three counties starting with Lamu.

The Maternal Health Shelter is part of the program.

Lamu county is among counties with the highest maternal deaths in Kenya with an estimated 676 mothers dying for every 100,000 births recorded.

The number is way above the national statistic of 362 mothers dying all around Kenya for every 100,000 live births.

Lamu governor Fahim Twaha is however optimistic that these statistics are bound to immediately change once the maternal shelter becomes operational.

“We are so glad to be looking to such a facility in Lamu. It is a commitment we have to ensuring we remove the tag that Lamu has the highest maternal deaths. We plan to have many more such shelters all around the region so that women from all corners of Lamu feel safe to go there and have their babies without having to worry of dying or losing their babies,” said Twaha.