How maternal healthcare access was affected in the times of Covid-19 in Kenya
During the early months of the pandemic, 40% of women reported reduced access to maternal healthcare services due to fear of contracting the virus. Other access issues identified were deprioritization of health services, economic constraints, and psychosocial effects as a result of the imposed lockdown and curfew.
A new study published by three recent PhD graduates in Healthcare Management and one senior faculty from the Strathmore University Business School (SBS),and collaborators from the University of Notre Dame in the USA provides suggestions for increasing access to maternal healthcare facilities with an aim of averting maternal death rates.
Dr. Jackline Oluoch-Aridi, Dr. Tecla Chelagat, Dr. Mary Nyikuri and Dr. Joseph Onyango sought to explore the maternity experiences of women residing in informal settlements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study included 71 women from Embakasi area in Nairobi aged between 18 and 49 who had recently delivered in the past 6 weeks between May and June 2020 in public, private and missionary hospitals in this area. .
The results of the study indicated that women interviewed had fear and faced uncertainty of accessing health care because of the possibility of contracting the virus as illustrated in the quote below;
“…I’m going less times compared to non-COVID-19 times. First of all it is because of fear, I’m worried that maybe if I go to the Hospital more often I may get exposed to the people who are infected with coronavirus and unluckily I get infected with the disease too. I am also afraid of exposing my child to the Corona virus when I frequently visit the hospital…”
They further expressed fear of contracting COVID-19 from health care workers who were regularly being exposed and risked infecting them.
“… I will be afraid because I don’t know if the nurse or the doctor, I find at the facility has the disease. So, I will be afraid…”
Other non-health related economic concerns were raised by the women. For example a majority of the women mentioned that the pandemic had put a heavy strain on businesses and income sources thus negatively impacting livelihoods. This constraint has consequently led to the loss of jobs and income and led some of the women to prioritize basic needs before healthcare concerns.
“…. As a result of COVID 19, I don’t have a job, so the little that we get we prioritize for food then health will come after.”
The implications of the findings led the researchers to recommend that both state and non-state actors should focus efforts on the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as income loss and food security, in addition to the access to maternal health services. They also added that the Government in particular needs to review its policies on social safety nets for vulnerable populations such as women in informal settlements in large cities such as Nairobi. .
The full findings are contained here in the Frontiers Journal.
If you would like to share your story, kindly email: firstname.lastname@example.org