Urgent action needed to address maternal deaths

A pregnant woman. Maternal death remains a grave concern that demands immediate attention.  

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • According to the World Health Organization, about 810 women die daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, totalling about 295,000 maternal deaths annually.
  • In Kenya, the maternal mortality ratio stands at 342 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal death refers to the loss of a woman's life during pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 days of delivery. This remains a grave concern that demands immediate attention.

Kenya, like many developing countries, faces significant challenges in combating this problem. With accurate statistics and a focus on prevention, it is crucial to examine the situation of maternal deaths in Kenya and identify effective strategies to save lives.

Tragically, maternal mortality remains a pressing issue in Kenya. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 810 women die daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. This equates to roughly 295,000 maternal deaths annually.

In Kenya, the maternal mortality ratio stands at 342 deaths per 100,000 live births. This means nearly 6,300 Kenyan women die annually from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Moreover, for every woman who dies, many more suffer from severe complications, such as obstetric fistula, infections, or disabilities. These numbers are simply unacceptable in a world that prides itself on progress and equality.

Despite significant progress over the years, countless women around the world continue to suffer and die during pregnancy and childbirth. This is not only a tragedy for individuals and families but also a reflection of the systemic failures in healthcare systems worldwide.

It is high time governments, policymakers, and the international community prioritised maternal health as a fundamental human right and take bold steps to reduce maternal mortality.

One of the key factors contributing to maternal mortality is the lack of access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services. In low-income countries, where the majority of maternal deaths occur, women often face tremendous barriers to quality healthcare.

Limited access to prenatal care, skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric services, and postnatal care significantly increase the risk of complications and death. Additionally, cultural, and social norms, gender inequality, and poverty exacerbate the problem, leaving marginalised communities particularly vulnerable.


To address these challenges, governments must invest in healthcare infrastructure, train skilled healthcare workers, and ensure the availability of essential medical supplies and technologies. This requires allocating adequate financial resources and adopting comprehensive policies that prioritise the needs of pregnant women and new mothers.

Furthermore, efforts should focus on building robust referral systems to ensure women can access appropriate medical care throughout their pregnancy and childbirth journey.

Education and awareness are also vital components of any strategy to improve maternal health. Communities must be empowered with knowledge of reproductive health, family planning, and the importance of seeking timely medical care.

By promoting gender equality and challenging harmful cultural practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, we can create an environment where women's health is valued and protected.

The international community also has a crucial role to play in addressing maternal health and mortality. Donor countries and international organisations should increase their financial support for maternal health programmes in low-income countries. Additionally, they must advocate policy changes and work collaboratively to ensure global health agendas prioritise maternal health.

Lastly, it is essential to recognise that maternal health is not solely a women's issue. Engaging men, communities, and stakeholders at all levels is crucial for sustainable change and solutions that transcend borders and save lives.

Men must be encouraged to take an active role in supporting their partners throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Community leaders, religious institutions, and civil society can play a pivotal role in promoting awareness, challenging harmful traditions, and advocating policy changes. 

The Ministry of Health should launch and implement the much-delayed clinical handbook on the big five causes of maternal deaths to ensure every woman has access to safe and dignified maternal care. It is time to end needless suffering and preventable deaths.

The writer is a communications consultant, and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) youth advocate at NAYA ([email protected]).