Over the past 3 years we’ve been implementing our first ever FCDO-funded maternal and child health project in Kenya. Team Mum’s Pregnant Women’s Group project was designed to increase health literacy, self-efficacy and peer support for pregnant women and new mums in Igembe Central sub-county, Meru. The project has been an enormous, life-saving success.
Over this period, we have seen an increase in women using maternal and newborn health services - and measurable changes in mother’s knowledge of health protection. For example, according to the Kenya District Health Information system 79.4% of women attended at least one antenatal care (ANC) clinic in 2019 when the project started. By 2021, that figure had risen to 93.5%. An even more drastic statistic shows that, before the project, only 12.2% of women interviewed could mention at least 5 danger signs in pregnancy. This year we found that 65.5% could identify at least 5 key danger signs. This increase in knowledge has saved lives, and will continue to do so.
The team has worked incredibly hard but it would have been impossible to achieve these results without the successful partnership we have had with the Ministry of Health at County and subcounty level. Child.org engaged the Ministry of Health in Meru right from the project’s proposal stage; we wanted to ensure that everything we were suggesting would address the needs of pregnant women in the community, was aligned to the priorities of the Ministry of Health and could be implemented within existing health structures. By involving different health departments we have helped build and strengthen the capacity of health workers to deliver their roles, and ensured that our work has made sustainable changes within the community.
This partnership was groundbreaking. It enabled the project to penetrate difficult community structures such as the local council of male elders who are known to be patriarchal and uninterested in issues relating to womens’ progression. However, our many engagements and sensitization meetings led to the council offering the county community land to build a health facility to reduce the distances women had to travel to seek health care.
Our partnership with the County also helped us navigate several challenges; the most notable being the difficulty in engaging male partners. Alongside county authorities, the project team was able to reach men through facilitated radio sessions and a TV documentary, offering key messages on the importance of male involvement in maternal and newborn health. Without this partnership, it would not have been possible to afford the costs of featuring on radio or TV.
Working with the county and subcounty health team has not always been easy and there have been roadblocks and challenges along the way. However, with a brilliant and experienced team on the ground, and having a memorandum of understanding with the county government, we were able to navigate these challenges seamlessly and deliver a project that has begun to spark waves of positive change and lasting impacts in the communities.
Thank you to the Child.org team, Meru’s Ministry of Health, local Community Health Assistants and Volunteers, our amazing supporters and the UK Government for match funding each donation made to Team Mum.