Free ambulances to the rescue of pregnant women during curfew hours

Since the government-imposed curfew in Kenya people’s mobility has been limited. Leaving expectant women at higher risk of developing complications due to delayed delivery.

The curfew prohibiting movement between 7.00 pm and 5.00 am has led to anxiety for many expectant mothers.  With concern about how the pandemic and lockdown could affect their pregnancies and the health of their newborns. Lillian Akinyi, a 33-year-old woman from a rural village in Rutek, Kisumu County, who recently gave birth to her second child “I was very afraid since the curfew was introduced. The motorbike and other taxis won’t carry anyone at night for fear of arrest. We even had floods and I kept wondering what would happen to me and my baby if labour comes at night”. But unlike many other women in rural areas, Lilian now has access to a free ambulance service that brings expectant women to the hospital if labour starts during the curfew hours.

Moses Otieno, MomCare Project Manager for PharmAccess in Western Kenya says that the goal of the MomCare initiative is to ensure that more women experience safe deliveries. “Women still need to give birth during the COVID-19 pandemic and within curfew hours. By facilitating access to an ambulance during curfew hours we have been able to save mothers and children lives.”

The MomCare project supports women to experience safer pregnancy journeys by providing them access to quality care at selected health facilities and by ensuring they receive appropriate information and support on their pregnancy.

According to Lilian, women receive SMS reminders for clinic appointments and on their due date. “I received an SMS saying that if I had problems I should call the hospital and I did when labour started. The problem is that the ambulance also had difficulties reaching me because of the floods and had to use a motorbike and we met halfway. They also paid for the motorbike”

MomCare is facilitating the women to access a minimum of 4 ANC visits and to have a skilled delivery at a health facility. Health providers at the facility have an application on their phone where they can follow the pregnancy journey of the mother digitally and in real-time.

St. Elizabeth Hospital Chiga located in Kisumu East Sub County, Kolwa East Location, is part of the MomCare program. Sr.Mary Josephine Ndalwala, the Administrator says that free ambulance transport, for delivery purposes during curfew hours has increased access to the hospital and the number of skilled deliveries. “We used to serve an average of 20 mothers per clinic day but with support from PharmAccess, we now attend to an average of 60 mothers per clinic day. Deliveries have increased from an average of 45 per month to an average of 70 per month. Maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity has also reduced. In the last six month we have not had maternal mortalities. Neonatal mortalities have reduced from 3% to 1%”

The program is running in 24 health facilities in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kakamega counties. Close to 8,000 mothers have access to ambulances to bring them to hospital if urgent maternal related care is needed during the curfew hours. According to Moses Otieno, 47 ambulances have been dispatched in Western Kenya and in Nairobi County over the last one month. “As per the MomCare guidelines, each facility should have access to at least one ambulance”.

Lilian is forever grateful to the MomCare ambulances for coming to her rescue. She says MomCare gives families hope of continuity by supporting maternity care.
“I don’t know what I would have done. Probably I could have delivered at home with help of a traditional birth attendant, and leave the rest to God if any complications occurred”.