Educating Mothers and Saving Lives

Photograph of a mother with two childrenRose Otieno knows all too well the heartache of losing a child. At 38 years old, she has lost two babies to pneumonia; one was four months old and the other only six weeks old. But in February 2017, Rose gave birth to a healthy baby who is now thriving.

This good news is thanks in part to Rose’s participation in a program through the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) that is educating pregnant women and mothers about actions they can take to improve their nutrition, including using kitchen gardens to grow nutritious foods and breastfeeding for baby’s first two years of life. Rose is also learning about the importance of handwashing, using latrines, treating household water, and food safety to prevent diarrhea and other illnesses in her children.

Rose is one of over 300 pregnant women and mothers from Manyatta Community Unit in Kisumu County who are receiving these nutrition and sanitation messages. Over the last 16 months, KIWASH and representatives from National and Kisumu County Departments of Health have trained 34 health workers who are leading programs just like Rose’s at JOOTRH.

When each woman completes the training, she receives a hygiene kit comprising a hand washing facility (bucket fitted with tap), a drinking water storage container, a bar of soap and a water treatment kit. Dorcas, a nursing officer and Community Health Extension Worker at JOOTRH, says that these kits “are meant to encourage mothers to visit our health facility and seek the essential health services and information as well as promote adoption of desired WASH and nutrition actions.”

Most mothers living with HIV deliver underweight babies due to lack of access to basic WASH services and poor nutrition. The program at JOOTRH provides a range of health care support for mothers and their babies, including prompt management of any childhood illness and the treatment of postnatal illness in mothers.

Rose is happy that her children are healthy and disease-free since she learned how to grow and prepare nutritious meals and adopted better hygiene and sanitation practices. “The hygiene kit has helped me instill the practice of hand washing at critical times and this has reduced frequent cases of diarrhea among all my children,’ she said.

This USAID program and others like it are helping to lower the infant and child mortality rate across Kenya which stands at 36.51 deaths for every 1,000 births. The majority of those deaths are caused by childhood illnesses including diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria.

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