When the government set up a policy of free delivery services at all public health institutions in the country in 2013, the aim was to see safe delivery of babies with the assistance of skilled professionals.
According to the government, the cost of delivery was the main hindrance to safe delivery. The main aim was to reduce the ever increasing mortality rate mostly caused by unsafe deliveries.
Most women preferred to give birth at home with the help of relatives or traditional birth attendants and anything going wrong could cause deaths of both the mother and the child.
Through the programme, pregnant women were also allowed to access antenatal clinics without paying for the service.
The idea was that problems among pregnant women could be detected in good time and the situation dealt with to have healthy babies.
The expectation still was that all pregnant women would seek delivery services and walk home with their babies without paying a single cent.
The programme has to a larger extent helped women access the service with ease. The government’s move was also in line with the World Health Organization which advocates for universal skilled birth.
The government in particular was targeting low income families where three quarters of the neonatal deaths and maternal deaths occur outside hospital.
However, a section of the women in Kenya still give birth at home posing danger to the health of their unborn children.
According to Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya director George Kakala, the policy also helped reduce the number of children who suffer from cerebral palsy.
According to the director of the society, if all pregnant women sought antenatal service in the first three months of pregnancy, then the conditions would be wiped out or be reduced on a large scale.
The condition according to the Trans Nzoia Chief Occupation Therapist Dan Nandwa, occurs during pregnancy, birth delivery and soon after birth.
According to Nadwa, during pregnancy, the condition is caused because of negative health seeking behaviour of mothers such as self- medication especially at the first trimester (First Three months of pregnancy), violence, infections and failure to seek service of skilled health practitioners in time.
He said that in Trans Nzoia County, only 60 per cent of mothers sought the services of skilled health practitioners during birth delivery with 40 per cent delivering at home increasing chances of giving birth to a child with cerebral palsy.
He said that home deliveries were a danger to the safety of babies and should be discouraged by all means as the service is provided free of charge by the government.
He added that women still sought the services of herbalists and carried out self- medication during pregnancy exposing themselves to adverse effects especially when they were afflicted by disease such as cerebral malaria, meningitis and tuberculosis that greatly contributed towards prevalence of cerebral palsy at post -delivery.
Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is a condition that cannot be reversed but through therapy, such children could improve their condition and lead a normal life.
Even as the society celebrated the World Cerebral Palsy day on Saturday, Kakala noted that the condition is the common physical disability in children that is least understood by society.
“Most parents hide their children from the public because of stigma making the situation worse. This also denies children treatment and appropriate interventions,” he said.
Founded in 1994,the society was started by a handful of parents of children afflicted by-cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya is a charitable organization mandated to create awareness and also advocate for the rights of the children with the cerebral palsy condition.
It also promotes provision of rehabilitation services and legislative policies for the welfare of individuals living with the condition.
If well taken care of, children living with the condition could undergo schooling up to University level. The society is currently sponsoring four adults living with cerebral palsy at university.
The group has also been vibrant on creating awareness to the public which has made parents seek health services in hospitals.
They also take care of over 350 children living with the condition. World Cerebral Palsy day is a social movement that educates the public on the rights of children suffering from the condition.
Kakala says that like any other children, those with cerebral palsy have a right to access of opportunities provided by society. This year’s theme was “we are here, we are here and we want the world to know”.
Kakala says that at least 2 million Kenyans suffer from cerebral palsy. What is worrying is that with a good number of pregnant women is not seeking deliveries from health institutions and the number is soaring.
“If only all women can attend antenatal clinics and deliver in hospital, these cases will drastically reduce,” he said.
In Trans Nzoia, over200 children came up for the medical camp that was organized on Saturday. Out of the cases, Kakala said that most of the children were born at home.
According to Kakala, the society is working closely with the government to capture all children suffering from cerebral palsy so as to have a plan for them.
He said awareness is key to the prevention of the condition and also will clear misconception about the people in this group.
Cerebral palsy is also among the most misunderstood conditions. Some people take it for granted that all who suffer from the condition also have mental problems. This is not the case. However most of them have difficulties with controlling muscles, speech and some also suffer from epilepsy.
Nadwa said that the realistic view of people living with this condition is that there are smart, funny, creative, fascinating persons. “They also have marriages, children, jobs, friends and families,” he said.
He encouraged women to take advantage of free maternal care provided by the government to deliver in hospitals to stop the condition. It’s also important that the best medical and therapeutic information is provided to medical professionals, care givers and even parents, he said.