Four Kenyan women benefitting from Christian Aid’s maternal and child health programme share their stories. Photographs by Matthew Gonzalez-Noda
Four women in Narok County, Kenya, talk about how giving birth has changed since the maternal health project there renovated their hospitals, provided ambulances and created a mobile clinic. These are examples of how Christian Aid and its partners are helping mothers and babies around the world as part of this year’s Christmas appeal. The government’s matchfunding scheme will double all donations until 6 February. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.christianaid.org.uk/deliverhope or phone 0845 7000 300
Nooseiruri Melita, 34
My eight children were born with no problems at home. Then, after my daughter Monica, I had a miscarriage. Then Priscilla came, another daughter – and another problem in my pregnancy. I started to feel sick for days and then I miscarried. There was lots of bleeding. It pains my heart to talk about it.
Now the ambulance is here, it is a great aid. With the last miscarriage, we called the ambulance to take me to Kilgoris. My neighbour, Joyce, called the community health worker. At 2am the ambulance came. I am grateful God made an ambulance available. It was very dark and the situation of the road [was bad, but] the ambulance made it. The last time there was excess bleeding; this time, because of the ambulance, there was no excess bleeding. The ambulance took me to hospital. I got medication.
Before the ambulance, during the last miscarriage, I bled so much, Joyce had to stay close and slaughter the sheep to give me the fat and blood for energy. If the ambulance had been there for the four lost children, at least three of them would be alive.
Cecelia Kimanjoi, 21
I was at home when the labour started and I came to hospital using a motorbike. My mother-in-law came with me. The motorbike was not comfortable. It is 800 shillings for the ride; 800 shillings would buy ugali [maize flour cooked with water] and vegetables for two days. Not everyone can afford this. My labour was hard, and I was scared, but the doctors helped me. For my next child, I will be in the hospital for weeks before the birth, and not find myself on the motorbike again.”
I have been to the clinic nine times since having the baby. I come for the baby to be weighed and for her vaccinations. It is costly to get here because of the state of the roads: I came today by taxi with a friend – it was 500 shillings. In Nairobi, the same distance would cost 50 shillings or less. But if the clinic wasn’t here, I would have to get to Kilgoris; the journey would cost me 1,200 shillings and take all day. Coming here takes 10 minutes so I have the rest of day – I can do cooking, washing and look after the livestock.
Noorkitoip Joyce Julius, 38
The mobile clinic has really helped us. It is very economical as you lose 2,000 shillings for a motorbike to Lolgorian, and, if you go by foot you can have conflict with the wildlife – there are lions; you can be injured or killed. So when the programme came it has been a rest – we can get our services in a very secure place, in a very short distance.
We are very confident now that we can call the ambulance; it can reach everywhere – even in the deepest bushes. We are grateful to the team who raised the money for the ambulance but mostly we are thankful to God. We are praying for the building of services for mothers.
Men hold all the resources – all the cows, all the sheep. Economically, the ambulance has helped the men: They pay 10,000 to 14,000 shillings to hire a vehicle from Kilgoris to get the patients. Nowadays, the cost is just to fuel the ambulance – maybe 2,000 shillings. Men are happy now.
Nashoro Ndayia, 43
Out of my eight children, I delivered two in hospital and the rest I delivered at home. At home we just hope that things will go well; we look to God to help us. But when you go to the hospital, before you even give birth, you are able to be examined and get treatment.
I would take everyone to the hospital because I have experienced loss here at home. If I had the hospital, I would still have my child here. My fourth child, Semeyian Kitikai, was 19; she was pregnant with her third child and was not going to school. She started having a headache and sickness. She was full term, she had labour for two days by the time she gave birth. She was weak; she was exhausted. It went well but the placenta was retained. By 6pm she was bleeding very much. They tried to deliver the placenta but it would not deliver. Around 8pm is when we started looking for a vehicle. The neighbour had a vehicle and they took her to the hospital, but she never made it; she died on the way. She was maybe five minutes away from the hospital.
Semeyian did not go to hospital – she had no money, no husband to support her. We don’t know where the father is; he is not liable – it is our culture. I am thinking about the process of getting that vehicle to come for my late daughter: We had to run down and look for a vehicle and it delayed the process. The ambulance we have now is reliable and can take you without money. If the ambulance was there, I know they would have come and taken my child to hospital.
The United Reformed Church is an official partner in Christian Aid’s 2014 Christmas appeal. For fundraising and worship resources to get your church involved this Christmas, visit www.christianaid.org.uk/getinvolved/christmas/resources.aspx or call 0845 7000 3000
This article was published in the December 2014/January 2015 edition of Reform.