New book highlights the plight of Kenyan mothers

‘Meta l-Mkunga Twelled’, written by editor of sister newspaper Illum, Julia Farrugia, was launched on 23 May. 

The book, whose title means ‘When the Mkunga gives birth’, collects Farrugia’s experiences in Kenya while on a work assignment. It is filled with photographs and interviews taken and made by the editor herself, and highlights the lives of women and the lack of trained midwives in Kenya.

The aim of the visit in Kenya was to raise awareness about problems related to pregnancies and giving birth. According to the Demographic & Health Survey in Kenya of 2008-2009, almost 488 out of 10,000 women die while giving birth. Every year, more than 14,700 Kenyan women and adolescents – even 12-year-olds – die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

This happens as a result of:

- lack of transport facilities in Kenya forcing poor pregnant women to walk to the hospital, some have to travel for up to two days. Many of these die on the road.

- most women giving birth alone.

- the Kenyan society believes that only cowardly women give birth in hospital.

- the black market of the ‘mkunga’ (untrained midwives who ‘help out’ in the birthing process), which either causes the mothers to die in their hands, leaving them crippled for life or scarring them with an internal lacerations.

The book is an extension of the reporting in Kenya which aims to continue raising awareness about the high death rates related to pregnancies, which can easily be avoided. More than 80% of maternal deaths are caused by haemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour and hypertensive diseases of pregnancies, which can be prevented by having more adequate reproductive health services, equipment, supplied and skilled care workers.

A study carried out by Prof. Edwin Grech between 1966 and 1967 on the causes of maternal death in Uganda, highlighted that only 32% of the Ugandan women gave birth in an institution. In 2006, 39 years later, although the rate of mothers seeking assistance to give birth increased, this country still had the highest rate of mothers giving birth alone

SOS Malta is part of a EuropeAid project called 'Save Women’s Lives' which aims to raise awareness on Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5). The aim of MDG5 is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by 75% by 2015 and to make sexual and reproductive health accessible on a universal level.

Facts about Kenya

Population: 40 million people

488 out of 10,000 mothers die during childbirth

100 births occur to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19

44% of the women use the services of a 'mkunga'

46% fall under the poverty line, which means they earn less than €1.48 per day

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