A non-profit organization based in St. John’s hopes the completion of a new 20-bed hospital in Kenya will help lower the risk of maternal death for local women.
Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Isiolo, Kenya, including President Mwai Kibaki, to open MaterCare International’s (MCI) maternity hospital.
MCI project manager Simon Walley said a bishop from a local Catholic diocese contacted the group in 2005 asking for help in order to reduce maternal deaths in the area.
“What we concluded, because there’s no place over there, is they needed a facility that could treat medical complications and do normal delivery,” Walley said.
“There’s a general hospital in the area, but it’s under-staffed and under-equipped, and most deliveries in Africa, let along Kenya, take place at home.”
When complications occur as a woman gives birth at home, Walley said, maternal death often results. According to the World Health Organization, more than half of all maternal deaths worldwide occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Not a lot is being done about it,” Walley said.
With help from other organizations and people from across Canada, the United States and Australia, enough funds were raised to build the facility at a cost of approximately $750,000. A maternity clinic 200 kilometres north of the hospital in Merti was also built. It opened last year.
Because the roads are so treacherous in Kenya — Walley said the drive between the hospital and clinic takes five hours — a 4x4 ambulance will be used along with two specially designed maternity motorcycles ambulances that were made in South Africa. The 4x4 will travel long distances, while the motorcycles will be used for trips to local villages.
“We purchased (the 4x4 ambulance) about two years ago, and we know of at least eight cases where that ambulance alone saved a mother’s life,” he said.
Due to the nature of funding availability, Walley said, the Isiolo Project is taking place in stages. With construction of the hospital complete, the project now moves into raising funds to operate the hospital. Based on MCI’s budget, operating costs for five years will require $2.4 million.
Walley said the Kibaki government has verbally committed to provide a doctor and three nurses for the hospital, but more staff will be required for the facility.
MCI, an organization of Catholic health professionals with a mission to serve what its website refers to as “the Gospel of Life,” has also worked in Nigeria and Ghana. Through its work in those countries, Walley said, it has noticed mothers have few concrete rights.
The group has since developed a “Charter of Mothers’ Rights” and is sharing it with governments and agencies in the hope they will considering adopting it. It covers issues of a mother’s right to adequate care and protection from violence, as well as the right to life of the unborn child.