Kenya: How To Develop Policy Standards And Guidelines For Preventing Maternal Mortality

If there’s any debate that is not ending soon is the abortion debate. In fact during the constitution making process it stood out as one of the most contentious issues pitting Kenyans against each other on ideological, practical, religious and value lines. The makers of our constitution balanced this emotions and disallowed abortions on demand but provided specific circumstances where termination of pregnancy could be allowed.

However, the constitution was not to be an end in itself. In line with the fifth schedule of the constitution, laws and policies were to be made to further define the letters and the spirit of the constitution. However, almost five years down the line, Kenyans are still grappling in the dark with no legal framework on a number of sectors including the very critical health sector.

Reproductive Health for example remains an undeniable area requiring a strong and responsive policy and legal environment.

Now more than ever, we don’t have the luxury of time. Not if some twenty one women will die today due to pregnancy and child birth, seven of whom will be due to complications arising from incidences of unsafe abortions. Google tells us that ‘how to abort’ remains a frequent asked question on their platforms.

It’s easier to dismiss these and other statistics with cynicism, especially if one hasn’t put a face to these figures.

Despite our differences in thoughts, no Kenyan is happy at this statistics. Not the family, not the community and definitely not the government. No religious man enjoy waking up every weekend to administer at a funeral of a young girl robbed of her future due to unsafe abortions. Neither does a doctor relish the moment he has to look at a widower and tell him he lost her. Yet this is the reality of many villages, towns, municipalities and cities of our nation.

That’s why the news that the government is developing the policy standards and guidelines for preventing maternal mortality couldn’t have come at a better time. Whereas the larger policy document is expected to address all the issues under maternal mortality and not just abortions, it’s refreshing to know that the government is not just hiding her head in the sand and hoping the danger will go away.

However, we must learn from previous attempts, key among them the safe abortion guideline that were withdrawn after just a year, due to opposition from some quarters. The process of developing the policy standards and guidelines for preventing maternal mortality needs to be as participatory as possible. Stakeholders from religious leaders to health care service providers to institutions of higher learning to civil society organizations to young people must be involved to agree on how best to come up with a document that respects our different values but appreciates our current reality and takes into consideration the promise of the future.

However, subjectivity and traditional feuds must not be allowed to pervade and water the discussion to a base argument of us versus them.

We must agree on this if we are to realize the aspirations of Vision 2030 and realize the highly ambitious and fast approaching Sustainable Development Goals.

ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq