The state of reproductive health in Tiaty East, Baringo
Baringo County has some of the most marginalized rural communities with the highest maternal mortality rate in Kenya. The county has also one of the lowest primary and secondary school enrolments in the country, presenting multiple challenges to maternal and child health in the communities.
At least 488 deaths per 100,000 live births occur every year in Baringo County, a maternal mortality rate that is higher than that of Kenya as a whole, which records 374 deaths per every 100,000 live births.
Every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the rights to health care services, including reproductive health care. The Kenyan Constitution also stipulates that every person “shall not be denied emergency medical treatment.
The Kenyan government through the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the County governments have national and international obligations to ensure that the right to health of women, including sexual and reproductive health is respected and promoted. This should include, but not limited to facilitating women’s control over fertility, right to family planning education, right to adequate, affordable health services at reasonable distances, access to health information, and education programs for women especially those living in rural areas.
However, that’s totally different in Tiaty East where women do not enjoy the right reproductive health. Cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, child marriages and polygamous practices pose considerable obstacles to maternal and child health.
Low education attainment coupled with low income levels is also an enormous challenge that impacts reproductive health of women and girls in Tiaty East. Latest report by the Population Reference Bureau revealed that less than half (45%) of school-age children in Baringo County are enrolled in secondary schools. Only 15% of Baringo’s population is working for a pay, which puts the residents at a daunting disadvantage in accessing quality maternal and child health services.
Reproductive health is an important aspect of community health, especially when 60% of the Baringo population is under the age of 20. The Population Reference Bureau report further showed that 68% of married adolescent girls want to delay or prevent pregnancy but do not use family planning.
The challenges are compounded by the limited healthcare facilities in Tiaty East. For instance, residents of the Orus area have to travel more than 50KM to access specialized maternity and overall health services in a Tangulbei based hospital. The local dispensary in the community has only one health professional, who serves an area with over 3000 people.
Fortunately, MAMA employs a multi-pronged strategy to promote and strengthen maternal and child health in Tiaty East. One of the key projects the community organization is implementing is to train, educate and empower women in the Pokot community to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.
MAMA is also developing the Keep a Girl in School program to enhance access to education and reduce child marriages among the Pokot.
The upcoming Wellness and Resource Center will also offer adult education for both men and women to enhance access to health information and healthcare. The facility will also have a maternity wing that will provide services to women and girls and reduce the distance traveled to health clinics by more than 85%.
Article by Euodia Ondisa, a Nutritionist and Projects Officer at MAMA