Margaret Kenyatta is the 2014 UN in Kenya Person of the Year

Her Excellency the First Lady of Kenya Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta (second left) after being named the UN in Kenya Person of the Year 2014. The award was presented at the UN grounds by (from left) the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Amb Amina Mohammed, UN Resident Coordinator Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas and UNFPA Representative in Kenya Mr Siddharth Chatterjee.

What you need to know:

  • "For too long, the prospect of childbirth in Kenya to thousands of women has been tantamount to a death sentence. This is not acceptable. It must stop"

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is this year’s UN in Kenya Person of the Year. 

Mrs Kenyatta was awarded the prestigious award on Friday, October 24, 2014 during festivities celebrating United Nations Day for her efforts to improve maternal and child health in the country through her ‘Beyond Zero’ Campaign.

With queenly gracefulness in her countenance, the First Lady looked resplendent in a red dress accessorised with colourful Maasai jewellery on her head and neck. Flanked by her three children Jomo, Jaba and Ngina, the First Lady received the plaque of recognition, then dedicated the award to fellow Kenyans who helped raise funds for her cause.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths in our country is not a choice, it is a necessity. For too long, the prospect of childbirth in Kenya to thousands of women has been tantamount to a death sentence. This is not acceptable. It must stop,” she said.

Mrs Kenyatta not only made history as the first ever First Lady to run a marathon for a worthy cause, but also the first First Lady ever to be awarded the UN Person of the Year Award.

Contestants for the UN Person of the Year Award are nominated by the various UN agencies for their exemplary work in community service.  The First Lady was nominated for the award alongside several other deserving candidates by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN agencies then voted for the UN Person of the Year and the First Lady emerged victorious.

MORE MOBILE CLINICS

It was noted that despite her humility and apathy for the limelight, Her Excellency the First Lady had effectively utilized her high profile position into a positive advantage for Kenya’s women and children. By launching the Beyond Zero Campaign, the First Lady had brought international and national attention to the dire plight of Kenya’s women and children, and with the initiative, thousands of lives of women and children would be saved.

Additionally, the Beyond Zero Campaign was launched to meet Kenya’s challenges in meeting MDGs 4, 5 and 6 on infant and maternal mortality, and reduction of HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths.

At the launch of the Beyond Zero Campaign, the First Lady announced that her ultimate goal was to ensure that all 47 counties in Kenya received a mobile clinic to ensure that no more mothers and children die during childbirth.

“To date, we have delivered seven fully kitted mobile clinics to Taita Taveta, Narok, Isiolo, Homa Bay, Wajir, Baringo and Samburu counties. These are Counties that have some of the highest maternal and newborn mortality rates in the country,” said the First Lady.

21 DEATHS A DAY

The mobile clinics can deliver essential health services such as vaccination, ante-natal care, HIV testing and treatment, treatment of sick children and parents and strengthening emergency services. Through the Beyond Zero Campaign the First Lady has already raised funds to purchase more fully kitted mobile clinics.

According to Ministry of Health statistics, maternal death represents about 15 per cent of all deaths of women aged between 15-49 years. This translates to between 6,000 to 8,000 pregnant women dying every year, or 21 maternal deaths a day.

At the onset of the Beyond Zero Campaign, 8,000 women died every year from preventable pregnancy-related complications largely for lack of skilled birth attendance, while 108,000 children before age five died every year from communicable diseases.

Since the onset of the campaign hospital records show a significant increase in the uptake of women delivering in hospitals under skilled birth attendance (from 46 per cent to 66 per cent).

ENDORSEMENT AND COMMITMENT

The Beyond Zero initiative has also accelerated Government momentum in achieving MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015. It has received endorsement and commitment by all 47 Governors of Kenya, particularly from the 15 counties with the highest burden of maternal deaths of Kenya, contributing 98.7 per cent of the total maternal mortality rate in the country.

At a high-level meeting held in August 2014 in Nairobi, the 15 governors signed a communiqué that declared their commitment to drastically the rate of maternal deaths in their respective counties. Later that afternoon, UNFPA hosted a high level VIP luncheon in honour of the First Lady.

The guest list included Cabinet Secretaries, Ambassadors, diplomats, Heads of UN agencies and CEOs among others. During the luncheon, the First Lady was presented with a framed Communiqué signed by the 15 Governors in memory of the commitment made at the Governors Consultative Meeting in August.

HARMFUL PRACTICES

The presentation was made by the UN Resident Coordinator Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, UNFPA’s Representative Mr Siddharth Chatterjee, and Director of Medical Services Dr Nicholas Muraguri, who was representing the Cabinet Secretary of Health.

“We are very proud of your achievement and we salute you,” said Mr. Chatterjee. “Through the Beyond Zero Campaign, focus is increasingly being placed on women and girls, particularly the cultural and traditional practices that are harmful to their health and wellbeing. We are also beginning to see a shift in attitudes towards women and girls, where their sexual and reproductive health and rights are increasingly being taken into consideration. This is why we must sustain and accelerate the momentum if we are to realize tangible results that will be of benefit to women, girls and of families in general.”

The First Lady’s clarion call continues to be that “No Woman Should Die While Giving Life”

Last Sunday, Mrs Kenyatta launched the second edition of the First Lady’s Half Marathon at Karura Forest. Her target is to raise Sh600 million for the campaign by March 8 next year.

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