Feature story

New “Beyond Zero Campaign” to improve maternal and child health outcomes in Kenya

30 January 2014

Fifteen women die every day due to pregnancy related complications in Kenya and 20% of all deaths among mothers in the country are AIDS-related.

In order to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the country, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ on 24 January in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The new initiative also aims to accelerate the implementation of the national plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children.

“I am deeply saddened by the fact that women and children in our country die from causes that can be avoided. It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Ms Kenyatta. “This is why I am launching the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ which will bring prenatal and postnatal medical treatment to women and children in our country.”

According to the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health 2013 Update Report, in 2012 alone, more than 100 000 children died before their fifth birthday—largely due to preventable causes. In the same year, 13 000 new HIV infections occurred among children and 62% of children living with HIV did not access life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

“I wished that my mother had better access to maternal health care services that would have protected her from contracting HIV,” said Dorcas Kawira, a 21 year old HIV positive law student. She also stressed the challenges she experienced in accessing and using HIV treatment during her childhood. She highlighted that investing in the ‘Beyond Zero campaign’ would secure the necessary maternal and child health care to protect her and other young women living with HIV.

Donors and private sector organizations have already pledged funds to purchase mobile clinics that will provide integrated HIV, maternal and child health outreach services in the country. For example, James Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer of Equity Bank in Kenya, pledged US$ 580 000 during the launch event. The Ministry of Health will also invest in 2014 an estimate of US$ 400 million towards initiatives to reduce HIV transmission and maternal and child mortality, to increase the number of skilled health care providers and to equip the existing facilities with relevant supplies.

The ‘Beyond Zero campaign’ is part of the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Framework for the engagement of the First Lady in HIV control and promotion of maternal, newborn and child health in Kenya that was unveiled on World AIDS Day 2013. The framework aims to galvanise high-level leadership in ending new HIV infections among children and reducing HIV related deaths among women and children in Kenya.

The strategic framework focuses on five key areas: (i) Accelerating HIV programmes, (ii) Influencing investment in high impact activities to promote maternal and child health and HIV control, (iii) Mobilizing men as clients, partners and agents of change, (iv) Involving communities to address barriers to accessing HIV, maternal and child health services and (v) Providing leadership, accountability and recognition to accelerate the attainment of HIV, maternal and child health targets.