General Electric and charity Shining Hope for Communities Organization (SHOFCO), has announced a new maternal and infant care initiative aimed at increasing access to pre-natal screenings for expectant mothers in Kibera, believed to be the largest urban slum in Africa with an estimated 700,000 inhabitants.
Under the $25,000 partnership, GE Healthcare will provide hand-held ultrasound, training and advisory support to help SHOFCO’s mission to mobilize mothers to seek pre-natal screenings.
Twenty-four SHOFCO nurses and clinical officers have each received over 40 hours of training. Among the subsidized technologies provided is GE’s hand-held ultrasound device, designed to help primary health workers conduct examinations that may result in the earlier detection of potentially life-threatening pregnancy complications.
Slum dwellers lack access to quality healthcare infrastructure and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and malnutrition amongst children. Maternal and child mortality rates are about 50% higher than the national average, with an under-five mortality rate of 64 in every 1,000 live births. A lack of access to proper care during and immediately after delivery contributes to high mother and child mortality.
“Through a range of initiatives across the continent, GE is proud to support better outcomes for mothers and babies across Africa,” said Andrew Waititu, General Manager, GE Healthcare East Africa, during an event in Nairobi to celebrate GE and SHOFCO’s partnership. “We are firmly committed to serving as a partner in the development of healthcare in Kenya and are humbled to contribute in expanding SHOFCO’s capabilities and reach in the community where it is needed most.”
“Most of the health facilities available in the slums lack appropriate equipment to deal with prenatal and maternal health emergencies, in addition to a shortage of skilled personnel needed to provide emergency obstetric care. This solution, to be deployed at SHOFCO’s Subra and Makina satellite clinics, will help in reducing unnecessary referrals and decongesting the main health facility in Kibera.” said Kennedy Odede CEO and Co-founder of SHOFCO. “Through this program, expectant mothers will have access to ultrasound scanning before 24 weeks of gestation, that according to guidelines, assists clinicians in better estimating gestational age, improve detection of fetal anomalies and overall, help us improve a woman’s pregnancy experience.’’
“We are grateful to GE for their support in helping us expand our services to serve more patients and through capacity building, empowering our clinical officers and nurses with the know-how to deliver proper care to the most vulnerable.”
SHOFCO is anchored under four pillars: Education, Health, Community Empowerment and Water and Sanitation. Key under the health pillar is the Mother and Child Health incentives program, provided for free to mothers in Kibera. The program is designed to counteract the high child morbidity and mortality rates by encouraging mothers to seek regular antenatal, post-natal, and child welfare services to ensure positive health outcomes for themselves and their children.
According to WHO data for Kenya in 2015, maternal mortality rates accounted for 510 deaths per 100,000 live births and an infant mortality rate of 36 per 1,000 live births.
Led by a commitment to improving access and quality of maternal, newborn, and child health care services towards the attainment of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goal 3 agenda, the Kenyan government has made considerable progress towards reducing the burden of maternal and infant mortality rates.
A 2013 program providing free maternity services in the public sector has shown a doubling of the number of women accessing skilled birth attendance to over one million deliveries in 2016, with 2,000 maternal deaths and 30,000 child deaths avoided annually since 2013.
In 2016, the government announced a new program seeking to reach 400,000 underserved expectant mothers by expanding the network of institutions including faith organizations that offer free maternity services.