Kenya takes steps to save mothers’ lives, showing why better data matters

Kenya takes steps to save mothers’ lives, showing why better data matters EPA/D. Dal Zennaro

In 2013, Kenya’s Ministry of Health was faced with a debate over the alarming rate of women dying in childbirth: was the cause deep-rooted cultural values, or could lives be saved with policy interventions?

To find the answer, the ministry turned to its health information system. The data clearly showed that more than a third of women were giving birth at home and that many of them weren’t accessing health facilities because of distance and financial costs. “We saw that there was a problem with access,” says Dr Nicholas Muraguri, the health ministry’s principal secretary, who is responsible for all health services in Kenya. “So we decided to remove the financial barrier.”

On June 1, 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared maternity services free in all public health facilities in Kenya. The impact is being analysed.

Dr. Muraguri cites this example to demonstrate the power of good data to inform policy decisions. Kenya has made significant investments in strengthening data collection tools such as household surveys, health management information systems and civil registration and vital statistics.

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