By Benjamin W. Wachira
A devastating incident unfolded in the remote Kahutha-D village of Ndaragwa, Nyandarua County, as a 31-year-old woman tragically lost her life shortly after giving birth at home. The incident has highlighted the dire lack of access to emergency healthcare services in rural areas nationwide. Eyewitnesses recount a harrowing scene where the young mother began to bleed profusely after childbirth, sparking panic and frantic efforts to secure transportation to a hospital. Unfortunately, their attempts to find a vehicle were in vain. Faced with a life-or-death situation, they turned to a boda boda motorcyclist for help. However, what should have been an eight-kilometre journey to the nearest health facility turned into a race against time, as the motorcycle itself suffered a mechanical breakdown en route, and as precious minutes slipped away, the woman succumbed to complications and continued bleeding.
Sadly, this heartbreaking incident is not isolated but a reflection of a pervasive problem plaguing many parts of the country. The absence of emergency medical care trained Community Health Promoters and public ambulance services with a centralized emergency contact number compounds the issue. Despite the National government’s proactive efforts in crafting the Kenya Emergency Medical Care Policy 2020-2030 and the Kenya Emergency Medical Care Strategy 2020-2025, both designed to mitigate the pressing issues surrounding emergency medical care systems at the county level, their effective execution, entrusted to the County governments, continues to encounter formidable obstacles in most counties.
Nevertheless, there is room for optimism, as several counties have demonstrated significant progress by taking decisive steps in this vital endeavor. Notable exemplars encompass Kisumu, Machakos, Kilifi, Lamu, and Turkana, which have effectively initiated ambulance services to cater to the needs of their local communities. However, a substantial journey remains before universal access to emergency healthcare services can be achieved across all 47 counties in Kenya. We at Emergency Medical Kenya Foundation (EMKF) are spearheading this cause by actively championing and facilitating the implementation of these pivotal measures with the various county governments.
The recent tragedy in Kahutha-D village is a painful reminder of Kenya’s urgent need to prioritize and invest in emergency healthcare infrastructure and services. Lives are at stake, and the time for action is now.