Maternal deaths in Kenya carry a price too high to bear

14 MARCH 2014 | NAIROBI, KENYA

First of Its Kind Study in Kenya Calculates Economic and Social Impact on Families and Communities When A Woman Dies During Pregnancy or Childbirth

Every two hours in Kenya, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, devastating her surviving family members with grief. Now, for the first time in Kenya researchers have attempted to scientifically calculate the impact of her death on the family’s financial stability, and on its health and well-being.

The new study, titled ‘A Price Too High to Bear,’ was conducted from 2011 to 2013 by Family Care International (FCI), the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and the KEMRI-CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration.

It shows that far too often a maternal death is directly linked to neonatal mortality. Among the 59 maternal deaths examined, only 31 infants (52%) survived delivery. Of these 8 babies died in their first week of life and another 8 died over the next few weeks. In all only 15 babies (25%) survived. Some older children whose schooling was interrupted had to leave the family home to live with relatives. Husbands and older family members, particularly mothers and mothers-in-law, had little time to grieve, as they immediately began taking over the deceased women’s household and childcare responsibilities. When they lose a loved one to maternal death, families are confronted with medical and funeral costs greater than their total household spending in a typical year.

As the United Nations Millennium Development Goals’ 2015 deadline approaches, these findings are critically important as countries like Kenya work to accelerate their progress in reducing preventable deaths among their most vulnerable populations, strengthen their economies, and set themselves on a path of sustainable national development.

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