KENYA – A partnership between UNFPA, AMREF International University and the Phillips Foundation, has made available portable ultrasound technology and the training to go with it to midwives from far-flung health centers in remote parts of Kenya.
Such tools are often only available at specialist health facilities located in major towns and urban areas. As a result, pregnancy complications are often only identified at great effort and expense, too late for treatment, or not at all.
“When midwives become proficient in providing basic obstetric ultrasound at point of care, early detection of pregnancy complications and timely referral to higher level health facilities can occur,” said Priscilla Ngunju, a project coordinator with AMREF International University.
The portable machine, known as the Lumify Probe, allows midwives to carry it with them when conducting home and community visits, expanding the reach of maternal healthcare critical services.
In addition to eliminating the cost of transport to equipped facilities, the program has greatly lowered the cost of ultrasound screenings. Ultrasound screenings at a clinic cost Ksh 500 (about US$5), while they can be double or triple the cost at specialist health facilities.
Goretti Adhiambo, a midwife in Kenya, explained that the Lumify Probe will enable for all basic maternal health services as well as complicated cases to be handled effectively.
Maternal mortality continues to be one of the biggest challenges of the health system in Kenya. Informal settlements in Kenya have been known to have higher rates of maternal mortality and also receive maternity services of varied quality.
According to the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health, the maternal mortality rate in Kenya remains high, at 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2018.
Around half of Kenyan women are delivering in health care facilities, and only 44 percent are assisted by a skilled medical professional.
However, in 2020, Kenya has made remarkable progress in improving Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Adolescent Health and Nutrition outcomes.
Speaking during the 2nd Annual Conference on Partnership for strengthening Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mercy Mwangangi said the Maternal Mortality Rate reduced from 488 to 362 per 100,000 live births and Antenatal Coverage from 92% to 96%.
Kenya Child mortality has also declined by over 20 percent since 2008 and the total fertility rate to less than four which means more women are now using voluntary family planning with contraception.
Causes of maternal mortality include postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, obstructed labor, and sepsis. Many developing nations lack adequate health care and family planning, and pregnant women have minimal access to skilled labor and emergency care.