Inside new bill that seeks to replace Linda Mama

A woman attending an antenatal clinic. The Linda Mama Program provided free antenatal, neonatal, and postnatal services to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A new Senate bill aims to provide comprehensive maternal healthcare services amidst uncertainty over the fate of the Linda Mama Program.
  • If passed, the bill could transform maternal healthcare by ensuring quality services, reducing maternal mortality, and providing tailored support for mothers and new-borns.

Amidst uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Linda Mama Program during the transition from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), a Senate bill offers a potential solution.

The Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Bill of 2023, sponsored by ODM Nominated Senator Beatrice Ogolla, seeks to address a pressing concern affecting mothers dependent on the program. Under the NHIF regime, the Linda Mama Program provided free antenatal, neonatal, and postnatal services to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.

However, its future is now uncertain since the creation of three healthcare funds: Primary Healthcare Fund, Social Health Insurance Fund, and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund.

The Senate bill focuses on three groups: pregnant women, newborns, and children up to 12 years of age. It also provides free prenatal, neonatal, and postnatal services. The proposed legislation even goes further to provide for referral to adoption services, training in feeding, and breastfeeding support services.

In an interview with, the senator emphasised the necessity of providing every newborn with a fighting chance by ensuring adequate support during their crucial first month of life.

She referenced a recent Auditor General's report released in March, which found that 60 percent of the facilities examined lacked equipment necessary to offer basic maternity services.

"Kenya also has a high maternal mortality rate. For example, the Auditor General's report found that more than 1,000 women died between 2020 and 2021 despite substantial investments in maternal healthcare infrastructure. We must prioritise service quality to prevent avoidable maternal deaths."

Furthermore, Beatrice mentioned that the bill, if passed, will provide tailored maternal healthcare for vulnerable groups, stating, "Even mentally challenged and disabled pregnant women deserve services commensurate with their unique needs."

Family planning

Nominated Senator Crystal Asige, who seconded the bill upon its introduction to Parliament, also lauded its prioritising of pregnant women with special needs. Although she is championing the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Bill of 2023, Senator Asige highlights its limited coverage of women with disabilities in healthcare.

"I have seen cases on social media where women are not provided with proper beds during childbirth. Some are even forced to deliver on the floor or in overcrowded corridors," she stated. "These stories emphasise the immediate necessity for dignified treatment of women and girls with disabilities."

She was referring to provisions in the bill that advocate for respectful attitudes towards pregnant women with disabilities, provision of pregnancy-related services, and referral of mental health problems, including alcohol and drug-related problems.

In an interview with, Nelly Munyasia, the CEO of Reproductive Health Network (RHNK), commended the bill for specifically catering to pregnant adolescents, offering adolescent-friendly services for maternal healthcare if approved.

She has, however, raised concerns regarding the framing and language used in the bill, particularly regarding access to family planning services.

"I have reservations about the language used because 'family planning' traditionally implies planning for marriage or committed relationships," noted Nelly. "This language may exclude single individuals who choose to have sexual relationships and children." She advocates for more inclusive language that acknowledges the reality of adolescent sexuality and the need for accessible reproductive health services.

If passed, The Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Bill of 2023 could provide specialised healthcare services for mothers and newborns, distinguishing it from previous approaches with its holistic perspective, a much-needed replacement for the now uncertain Linda Mama Program.