Kenya on Tuesday launched an expanded free maternal care program in a bid to achieve universal access for maternal care.
Cabinet Secretary for Health Cleopa Mailu told a media briefing in Nairobi that all pregnant women will, under the program, be able to access antenatal, delivery and postnatal care free of charge in all public as well as some private health-care facilities nationwide.
The expanded programme dubbed “Linda Mama, Boresha Jamii”( Protect mother for a better society) extends it services beyond normal delivery to include ante-natal care, delivery through cesarean section and post-natal care free of charge. New-borns will also have access to free health services for a year.
Mailu said that the aim of the free maternal care program is to reduce the financial burden to families as well as help Kenya achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The program plans to scale up the free maternity care project which was introduced in 2013.
Since the inception of the programme in 2013, the numbers of deliveries in public health facilities has risen from 460,000 births to one million in 2015.
Kenya plans to use the National Health Insurance Fund to achieve universal maternal care.
According to the ministry of health, the free maternal care program will be achieved in two phases and be fully operational by mid 2017.
The CS noted that phase one will enroll 5,073 health facilities to offer free health services while phase two, which commences in February 2017, will rope in 6566 health facilities to provide ante-natal care and post-natal care.
Mailu noted that women are the sole income earners in nearly two thirds of all households in Kenya.
“So investing in the health of pregnant women has a spill-over macro-economic effect to communities and the economy,” Mailu said.