Through to 2: the women transforming births in Kenya

Songa community from Marsabit face a number of challenges, including accessibility to adequate healthcare services.
Songa community from Marsabit face a number of challenges, including accessibility to adequate healthcare services.

Songa community from Marsabit - like any other community in northern Kenya - face a number of challenges, including accessibility to adequate healthcare services. For mums-to-be, this can be problematic. We have trained community health workers so that more women have adequate antenatal care and that when the time comes, are able to give birth in a hygienic environment.

Community Birth Referral Agents (CBRAs) are well known for the role they play in the community. By encouraging expectant mums to receive adequate healthcare, they are transforming births across Kenya.

For mums living in extreme poverty, giving birth safely and ensuring that their new-born babies get the care they need in the first seven days can be difficult. Often access to health centres is limited, meaning that women have to give birth at home in an unsafe and unsuitable environment.

In Songa, Marasbit, there is one health centre supporting people that live as far as 7km away. CBRAs provide maternity ‘waiting homes’ reduce the geographical gap in obstetric care by providing residential facilities to mums-to-be that are almost due for delivery.

Meet the team

Joyce Defadai is 54 years old; she is a mum of 8 children and has been supporting mums-to-be for 20 years.

Joyce Defadai is 54 years old; she is a mum of 8 children and has been supporting mums-to-be for 20 years.
Joyce Defadai is 54 years old; she is a mum of 8 children and has been supporting mums-to-be for 20 years.

Joyce tells us that she refers mums-to-be to the health facility for proper medical care. She talks about the maternity waiting space to us, explaining that:

The maternity waiting space is a blessing to us, we have never had anything like this in our community and we appreciate it. The space has two beds, it is clean, the women are brought when they are almost due, they are fed and after giving birth they are discharged.

However, she also discloses that one of the other biggest challenges is the lack of food at the health facility. Joyce explains that she and her colleagues have discussed this issue with the nurse-in-charge, and while he suggested that the facility provides food to mothers coming from the farthest villages and those from nearby villages can have food brought to them by their relatives, she doesn’t like the idea. Discussions are still underway as to how to best address the problem and Concern Worldwide is working with CBRAs to upscale the use of the maternity waiting home and skilled deliveries.

Community Birth Referral Agents (CBRAs) are well known for the role they play in the community.
Community Birth Referral Agents (CBRAs) are well known for the role they play in the community.

The CBRAs are tasked with counselling women and advising them to attend Antenatal Clinic (ANC), referring mothers to the health centre for better care, and generally educating them on nutrition.  For a very long time, home delivery was all the community knew, and health services were not appreciated with many people choosing traditional treatments instead. Children were never taken for immunizations, and malnutrition rates were high because of poor eating habits. 

Our women were afraid to visit the health centres because of culturally related issues. What I do as a CBRA when I visit the women in the manyattas [compounds] is to teach them the importance of medical check-up when one is pregnant. Other than referring women to the health centre, I also I educate them on the importance of immunization, malnutrition and general feeding habit.

Joyce Defadai

Now, however, thanks to these women, the health centre is progressively recording 7 deliveries a month, unlike a previous figure of 7 deliveries annually.

This has huge impact on the community because lives are saved, and babies are more likely to survive ‘Through to 2’.

Through to 2

Heartbreakingly, more than two thirds of newborn babies who die would have survived had they received adequate healthcare.

Babies are at their most vulnerable during the day of their birth and first week of life. With your support, you can help provide healthcare and support to mums during labour and newborn care to babies at this important time.

Give babies the building blocks to a healthy, happy life

  • You’ll help mothers give birth to healthy babies

  • You’ll be helping babies survive in times of crisis

  • You’ll help a baby through to 2

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