By Harriet Afandi

June 5 – We have been running away from traditional midwifery and fighting for quality and affordable maternal health care for our women and adolescent mothers. 

Unfortunately the hope of poor Expectant Women are being shattered daily by the new policy recommendations which are trying to do away with Linda Mama. 

Linda Mama was introduced in June 2013 by former President Uhuru Kenyatta Under the NHIF. This was a government initiative that provided for free maternal health care to expectant women even in private hospitals. A Cesarean section (CS) delivery could go for Ksh1,000, unlike before where it was paid out of pocket starting from Ksh. 30,000.

Over the three years, things have gradually been changing in our maternal health care systems. Expectant Women have been forced to buy even drugs, cotton and gloves (for midwifery) out of pocket and without these they missed out on receiving proper or immediate medical attention leading to increased cases of obstetric violence (OBV). 

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On Mashujaa Day 2023, the president William Ruto endorsed the Social Health Insurance Act (SHIA), Digital Health Act (DHA) and Primary HealthCare Act (PHCA).

Section 26(5) of SHIA requires registration and prerequisite contribution for one to access national or county government public services. Section 27(4) states that one can only access healthcare services if their contributions have reflected and are active in their SHIF cover.

While Universal Health Coverage (UHC) calls for access to affordable health care services,these provisions have led to increased cases of Obstetric Violence in our Maternal Health Care systems. Linda Mama was a breakthrough as it made sure Expectant Women get services based on the need and not ability to pay.

In Kenya, barely 3 out of 10 grassroots households can afford Ksh1,000 a day. The current proposed Ksh10,000 for NORMAL delivery under SHIF is going to force our women way back to traditional midwifery characterised by high maternal death rates due to improper, unqualified medical practices.

I am calling on the National Assembly of Kenya to look into the OBV Survey Findings 2024, realize that lack of necessities is a contributor to pass the National Policy on OBV Bill Kenya as there is an urgent need to address the gap between Policy Reforms and Effective Implementation for affordable maternal health care in Kenya to prevent Violence against women and girls (VAWG) seeking maternal health care in our hospitals.

Afandi is a Health & Gender Rights Champion and Nguvu Change leader.

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