FCI Kenya Study Reveals Impact of Maternal Death on Children, Families, Communities

March 14, 2014

Every two hours in Kenya, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, devastating her surviving family members with grief. Now, for the first time, we know the profound and destructive impact of her death on the family’s financial stability, health, and well-being.

FCI conducted the study, titled A Price Too High to Bear, in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and the KEMRI-CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration, from 2011 to 2013 in three rural sub-counties within Siaya County in Western Kenya.

It shows that a maternal death is often directly linked to neonatal mortality: of 59 maternal deaths studied, only 15 babies survived the first 2 months of life. Older children saw their lives and education disrupted – loss of a mother’s income sometimes led to children withdrawing from school or leaving the family home to live with relatives.

The findings also showed that families experiencing a maternal death spent more on medical care and funeral expenses than all other yearly expenses combined, including food, shelter, and education. In nearly half of all cases, families had to sell household property or borrow money from family members or moneylenders, in order to stay on their feet.

‘This new research puts hard numbers, as well as heart-breaking stories, behind a message that maternal health advocates have known for years: when women die, children suffer and families fall apart,’ said Ann Starrs, president of FCI. ‘These findings reinforce the compelling moral and economic case for urgent action to end preventable maternal deaths, in Kenya and around the world.’

This research was conducted, in cooperation with the Government of Kenya, with the financial support of the U.K. Government; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health.

‘This critically important research shows us, yet again, that the costs of maternal death are indeed far too high for the Kenyan people to bear,’ said Dr. Simon Mueke, Head of the Reproductive and Maternal Health Services Division, Kenya Ministry of Health. ‘Across Kenya, in every county, we must and will commit ourselves to ensuring that every woman has access to high-quality antenatal, maternity, and postnatal care, and that the families who suffer these devastating losses receive the support services that they desperately need.’

‘The message is clear,’ said Ann Starrs of FCI. ‘The time to act on maternal health is right now.’

Click here for more information, including a technical brief that provides an overview of the research findings and policy briefs outlining the study's key messages.

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About FCI: Every two minutes, every single day, a woman dies needlessly from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. For a quarter century, Family Care International has worked to end this slow-motion catastrophe. In the halls of power, FCI fights for funding to save women's lives. In remote villages, FCI works with local partners and communities to raise awareness, create innovative solutions and tools, and implement effective programs. Read more...

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