To be pregnant in Kenya’s Mandera county is like walking on the edges of a sharp object. It is taking too much risk for something the world does not consider worth taking so much risk for. The hospitals in this county are said to have little or no basic facilities and are missing the most basic of necessities. Many pregnant women who go into labor in this area meet death for unnecessarily reason especially for the fact that there is no blood available for women hemorrhaging after a cesarean section. It is either hospitals in this county have no blood in their blood banks or there is no blood bank in the hospital at all.
According to CNN, Kenya’s Mandera county is named the most dangerous place in the world to give birth. Women in this county are almost 10 times more likely to die in childbirth than they are in Afghanistan. It’s 135 times more dangerous to be pregnant here than in the United States. For every 1,000 live births here, about 38 mothers die in childbirth in Mandera County, according to the United Nations — two to three women a day
The hospital in this remote region of Kenya caters also to people living near Kenya’s border with Somalia who travel about 300 kilometers (186 miles) to reach this hospital as there are no medical facilities closer to their home than this one.
When asked why this county is the most dangerous place to give birth, the women’s activist Ubah Ibrahim said
“The reason as to why (it is so dangerous to give birth) — is mostly because of female circumcision. Every day it happens. Also, there are very few doctors left in Mandera because of insecurity, and not many good facilities.”
She added that terrorism has contributed massively to the plague of this county as the al Qaeda-linked insurgent group Al-Shabaab has attacked Mandera multiple times, killing dozens of civilians. And on that consequence, Humanitarian agencies and International donors, including the World Food Programme, have pulled out or withdrawn support due to the insecurity. The small number of medical staff remaining are choked with work.
Additionally, pregnancy happens all the time in the county and some of these women aren’t supposed to be pregnant as they are underaged. This is because child brides (women whose bodies are too young to bear children) and other related practices are still prevalent in this part of Kenya.
Also, stubbornness and lack of information are also blamed hugely for the maternal deaths here citing women hemorrhaging, and yet declining cesarean sections, afraid that it would reduce the future fertility in polygamist society where some women estimate their relevance by the number of children they can give their husbands.
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Female genital mutilation is also cited as one of the many factors endangering the lives of women who give birth in this county. This practice is heavily common in the region and is performed on girls as young as nine years old. After mutilation, they are then sent to recuperate from the bleeding in the bush.
But that is not just where the problem is, genital mutilation in general has deadly side effects. The effects are usually not immediate but are usually noticed during pregnancy or child birth. The mutilation can bring about terrible and horrific consequences. These consequences affect both the mother and the child. A baby can die of obstruction at the vaginal wall and if the baby is trapped, the child — and possibly the mother — will die.
Another factor playing a significant role in the maternal death toll is hospital expense. Not many can afford the seemingly affordable price of getting hospital service in this county. There are just a few or no free hospitals in this county with a million people spread over an area nearly the size of Connecticut or Belgium.
However, some redeeming measures are gradually flowing into Mandera. The U.N. Population Fund, U.N. Development Program in collaboration with the office of the first lady Margaret Kenyatta, have launched an initiative called “Beyond Zero”. Through the program, fully equipped mobile maternity clinics have been donated to 32 of Kenya’s 47 counties, containing the medical supplies women need for safe delivery. And the mobile clinics have assisted more than 130,000 Kenyan women and children, according to the U.N. Population Fund.