Keynote address by Kenya’s Deputy President, His Excellency Hon. William Samoei Rutto

During the official opening of Kenya Midwives Annual Scientific Conference and launch of the Midwives Association of Kenya on 11th August 2016.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure and honor to join you today during this important scientific conference. The theme of the conference- Midwives at the Heart of Quality Free Maternity Care Services- could not have come at a better time than this. I am particularly excited because it captures the spirit and manifesto of the Government.

Midwives are at the core of the implementation and success of the Free Maternity Services in the country. The Government believes that, the enjoyment of the highest standard of healthcare as manifested in the Constitution, under the Bill of Rights start not only during preconception/prenatal stage but also the quality of care given at the time of birth, determines the quality of life thereafter. Your roles during these stages cannot therefore be overemphasized.

The discussions during this annual scientific conference from scholars, practitioners, policy makers will be fundamental for us to address any challenges in the implementation process and use the lessons to even make the provision of maternity services better. That is why the Ministry of health participation in the conference is paramount.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The World health Organization, a few days ago, declared Kenya Polio free. That declaration is a testament and impact of our commitment to ensure eradication of preventable diseases in the Country and the Government is working together with the East Africa partner states to ensure this is so, on a wider scale. We will feel safe when the whole of East Africa and beyond is safe. The World health Organization statistics estimate that 289 000 women die annually during pregnancy, childbirth or soon after. In addition up to 5.6 million children died in 2015 before their fifth birthday. That is equivalent to 16, 000 children every day.

High resource countries like Canada and United Kingdom have made tremendous progress in ensuring good maternal outcomes with the lifetime risk of dying from a pregnancy of 1 in 5000. The lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy in low resource countries is 1 in 16 translating to a maternal mortality ratio 14 times higher in low resource countries compared to high resource countries. Majority of the maternal and child deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Maternal mortality ratio in Kenya declined from 488 in 2008/09 to 362 deaths per 100,000 live births translating to a lifetime risk from a maternal death of 1 in 39 (KDHS 2014). Skilled attendance at birth in Kenya increased from 44% in 2008/09 to 63% in 2014 (KDHS 2014) though short of the 90% target of births to be attended by a skilled provider by 2015 of the millennium development goals.

With the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era, the international community has agreed on a new framework – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where the target is to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age. The proposal is for all countries aiming to reduce under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births. It is therefore important that serious efforts are made to ensure this target is a reality. The Government is committed in this resolve. Your role as midwives is an ingredient to meeting this target.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Government and the world recognize the support of the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in promoting maternal health services through the Beyond Zero Campaign. The initiative is particularly important in remote areas of the country. The Government is determined to bridge the gap in disparities in health status between the rural areas and the urban areas. Of most concern are disparities as far as maternal health is concerned over the years. We believe apart from the Government’s policies of Free Maternity Services and increasing government/s budget towards health, devolution will play a bigger part in improving health care services.

During this conference, you will launch your new Professional Association. The Association will provide a framework through which the ideals, professional ethics, growth and polices of Midwifery will be guided and advanced. I encourage you to maintain a strong, united Association. My experience is that without a united Association, apart from affecting delivery of healthcare, it gives room for professional mal-practices.

As I conclude, I want to assure you of the Government’s support as you deliver on your professional mandate of ensuring quality maternal health care services in the country and to support the growth of your newly formed Professional Association. I believe, by the end of this conference, there will be a lot of lessons learned from the presentations on research and experience of experts around the theme of maternal health. I encourage you to make use of the shared experiences and knowledge and make change that will ensure delivery of companionate care to the citizens of this Country.

It is now my pleasure and honor to declare this Annual Scientific Conference officially opened and officially launch the Midwives Association of Kenya. I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Thank You.

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