They are grim statistics but this is the reality for women living in rural Kenya during the COVID-19 crisis. In Kenya we are on lockdown at night between 7pm and 5am but with some movement allowed during the day. A lack of understanding and the assumption that this curfew applies even in an emergency, plus multiple reports of police brutality towards those outside during curfew hours, means that many women are avoiding traveling to hospitals when they are in need of specialist care.
Rael, mother of three (including the baby she delivered) went into labour in the evening just after curfew. Rael successfully delivered her baby with the help of her neighbour but experienced a retained placenta. She contacted a driver to come and take her to the hospital at 11pm that night but the vehicle didn’t arrive until 9am the next morning. By then she had suffered a haemorrhage and she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Working fast to prevent more loss of life
Child.org are working with Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and Health Management Teams in Meru County to reduce the chances of this happening again. Today we have set up an SMS text message platform to contact all the women already signed up to the Team Mum project and to recruit more pregnant women.
The platform allows us to talk directly to women (96% of our participants have their own phones, 4% are contacted through a relative’s account and 1% women are contacted separately by CHVs) and provide them with vital information about the crisis and how to manage their health.
Today we were able to send our first two text messages via the system. We have started by sending out simple messages about what to do in an emergency and a reminder to wash hands.
The first two messages read:
Hey Faith! Team Mum is still here for you! We'll send you more messages in the future but for now keep on washing your hands. Good day!
Hi Faith, if you or your child need emergency treatment, please call Cherio [The name of their Team Mum social mobiliser] immediately, quarantine is not enforced in an emergency.
Next week we will conduct basic surveys to collect information and women will be able to send us questions or concerns, free of charge. We can then put them directly in contact with health workers.
We have also partnered with an organisation called Mama Tips who have developed a programme of health messages. Mama Tips have created three different messages to send to women every week, depending on their stage of pregnancy. Our Team Mum participants can opt into this service free of charge, ensuring they get continued, life-saving information during this crisis.
Our team are talking to health officials in Meru to reflect the data and to look for solutions to the barriers women are experiencing in accessing care. One example is providing taxi drivers with authorisation letters from the county to ensure they have the confidence to move women around at night during curfew hours.
It is fast-thinking programme adaptation like this that will save the lives of more new mums. We’ll share with you our next steps as we know more but in the meantime, please support our coronavirus appeal if you can. Your donations are allowing us to work finding solutions to the problems as they arise. Please help us to prevent any more losses.
If you, as an organisation or expert, think you may be able to support this project or have any questions, you are welcome to contact me directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.