By Sarah Ooko, World Vision Senior Communications and Media Officer, Kenya
Aisha, in her late twenties, is all smiles as she lovingly rocks her newborn baby girl at a dispensary in Kilifi County, Kenya.
The baby, christened Hashina, is her third child and a bundle of joy that she welcomed with thanksgiving in her heart, a day before.
After the agonising labour she went through during the delivery, Aisha is happy to relax on the plush mattress of her hospital bed, as healthcare specialists observe her and the baby, to ensure that both of them are okay before they can be discharged to go back home.
While enjoying the quality time with her baby, Aisha is also admiring the freshly painted walls of her hospital room that is also filled with new equipment, including patients beds and bedding that provide a comfortable resting place for mothers in the maternity wing.
She is among the many women that are increasingly benefitting from new maternity wings constructed and equipped by World Vision in Kilifi County through funding from the Shionogi & Co., Ltd. in Japan.
The maternity wings are located within two dispensaries, namely Midoina and Jaribuni, which serve families from various rural communities in the area.
Since their recent launch and handover to the County Government of Kilifi, the two maternity wings have offered relief to many women, who previously had to walk for long distances to access maternity care services.
"When I was pregnant with my other children, it was difficult to go for checkups as hospitals were far away. And when I didn't have money for transport, I had to walk for over 10 kilometres to the nearest facility. So, sometimes I just choose to avoid the hospital altogether," says Aisha.
These barriers to healthcare services have been major contributors to the high cases of maternal and child deaths in Kilifi County.
To evade the challenges, most women would choose to deliver at home, under unskilled service providers that put their lives in danger. Others who chose to brave the difficult terrains and scorching sun on foot, to travel to far away hospitals, would lose their babies or die of complications along the way.
"We had a small room that was used for maternity and it could only handle a few mothers. Worse still, we lacked sufficient equipment and therefore lost mothers or newborns who developed complications beyond our control and could not be referred to other facilities in good time," says Nurse Fridah who serves women at the maternity unit of the Midoina Dispensary in Kilifi County, Kenya.
She adds,"It always broke our heart but now we are happy that things will change for the better, because we have what it takes to save lives."
The various equipment donated by World Vision to the two health facilities in Kilifi included the following: delivery couches, stainless steel patient beds with mattresses, drip lines, doppler machines, infant warmers, weighing scales and blood pressure machines,
Aside from the maternity services, World Vision - in partnership with the county government - has also been relentless in creating awareness about the importance of good nutrition, family planning and attendance of Antenatal Care (ANC) clinics among expectant women.
"This is very important as it allows mothers to have healthy pregnancies and safe successful deliveries. In case of any complications, doctors can detect them early enough and find solutions before it's too late," says Eunice Ako, the World Vision co-ordinator of the Mother to Mother SHIONOGI Project that oversaw the construction and equipping of the maternity wings at both Midoina and Jaribuni dispensaries in Kilifi County, Kenya.
Once mothers have delivered, they are also taken through practices they should adopt for the improved well-being and development of their newborn children. They include immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life and provision of balanced diets while weaning children.
"Our package is inclusive as we want to ensure that mothers receive support from the time of conception and even after delivery as these are critical times for optimal development in children," says Eunice.