Friday, 6 December 2013

You - Nelson Mandela - are the last of the A-Team to leave us - Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada the companion of Mandela: A lfe of militancy against appartheid. Charged in the Rivonia Trial in 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. PHOTO

Tribute to Nelson Mandela from Ahmed Kathrada

Distributed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on behalf of Mr Ahmed Kathrada
Madala, as you light-heartedly started calling me some years ago, it both grieves me and inspires me to write this to you now, with the hour of your death still a fresh wound in our peoples’ hearts.

We called each other ‘Madala’ – old man – it became our standard form of informal address. To me it signifies mutual trust, respect, liking and close comradeship.

In a wider sense, this one word brings out much more. It encapsulates the foundation of the very qualities that set you apart from other men. Foremost is your sincere and consistent ability and skill in relating as equals to fellow beings from all walks of life – royalty, peasants, prime ministers, business people, presidents, workers, scientists, the illiterate, children, men and women: you treat, and regard, all as equal and equally deserving of respect, decency and dignity. You embodied the epitome of respect for your fellow beings, and the ability to relate easily to every strata of society.

This outstanding quality reminds me of my first encounter with you in 1945 or 1946 at Ismail Meer’s Flat 13, Kholvad House in Johannesburg. What sticks in my memory is: 

Here I was, a mere 16 or 17-year-old high school kid, and you at university. There were just a handful of students at Wits University who were not white. And my meeting with you became special. Our little time together was sufficient for me to boast to my school mates about this university student who showed so much interest in me, my studies, my interest in sports and future plans. He put me completely at ease and made me feel part of their adult conversation.

Little could we visualise then that this little meeting was to be the beginning of an increasingly closer relationship, not only with me, but with Flat 13. Your visits became frequent. During the Treason Trial, and specifically in 1960, there was dramatic change in the status of Flat 13. Oliver Tambo was sent into exile, resulting in the closure of the law firm of Mandela and Tambo. Now, what had been your occasional use of Flat 13 was transformed into your full-time law office.

I’m almost sure Long Walk to Freedom confirms what had been a couple of clients a day increased to a point where all three rooms were occupied! You jokingly said that was when I threatened to evict you. I cannot guess for how long this would have continued had you not gone underground soon after our acquittal in the Treason Trial.

Your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality and justice continually served as a source of enormous strength to me and so many millions of people around the world.

Perhaps for me these qualities were all the more profound for I know the depths of self-sacrifice and personal pain that were so easily missed beneath your ever-present and sincere smile. Yet your smile, which lingers still, was always from the heart, never forced or used for expediency’s sake, and the great joy you took in the world around you, especially in children, was unmistakable.

Most of all you symbolise, and always will, collective leadership, reconciliation, unity, forgiveness, nation-building and a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa.

One of your very important qualities that stands out is your self-confidence and absence of pettiness. An important example of this is your attitude towards opposition parties; they are not enemies but political rivals. We could work together on issues that would be in accordance with our basic aim of devoting our time and resources towards the upliftment of the needy. 

An obvious and most important example was when all political parties, including the Nationalist Party were invited to the Congress of the People in 1955.

It is for these qualities that, in your illness and death, you once more unite a huge diversity of people in the goodwill, good wishes and prayers of the people of our country, and, indeed, of the entire world. In these qualities you continue to bring unity to a world so often torn apart by intolerance, by discrimination, by injustice, by the violence of poverty, and by fear and mistrust.

Your power to inspire and bring out the good in people grows with each year that passes. I believe it is an incomparable gift, given at immeasurable personal cost, that will continue to cast a bright light in a world often beset by uncertainty and complex moral choices, both nationally and individually: a lodestar for leaders of substance and courage.

Indeed, your strength lies in your ability to reflect on your experience with honest and open eyes, to see where you may have made misjudgements and to adapt to changing circumstances. Your openness to change and the collective guidance of the broadest collective of colleagues has fuelled the bright star of your leadership and the reach of your influence.

From bringing youthful leadership to members of the ANC Youth League, a role that challenged you to reflect on the limitations of policies of exclusivity and polarity (for instance, your anti-Communism and opposition to united action with other liberation organisations) you saw the value of working with a diverse range of people with a range of beliefs, committed to the greater good, both within the ANC and beyond. You also adapted your views and strategies to changing circumstances, for example, shifting the terrain of the struggle from peaceful resistance to an armed struggle, always taking care to ensure that targets were legitimate structures of oppression and that respect for the sanctity of life was maintained.

Later, in prison, you and fellow members of the High Organ took the lead in uniting the prisoners across the artificial divisions of party-affiliation against the common foe, the prison administration. The qualities you embody provided a wellspring of strength when you emerged victorious from the prison gate with the world as your audience.

Despite the heavy expectations of you, you exceeded South Africans’ greatest dreams in providing vision, lack of self-interest, cohesion, peace, love and a multi-faceted national identity to a country rent asunder by years of socially-engineered hatred and fear. It is on record that you initially declined the ANC’s decision for you to be its Presidential candidate, explaining that the position would be more suitable for a younger person, male or female. When you eventually agreed, you made it clear it would be for one term only.

Your term as President and your gracious departure only built on the unshakeable foundations of what you have forged. South Africa, Africa and the world embrace you. In death you once more challenge people from every strata, religion, and position to think about how their own actions do and can change the world for better or worse. We hope that the challenge will always be met with commitment, humility and integrity. The goodness in you resonates with and amplifies the goodness in others.

It is with this ever present in my mind that I will always remember you.

We have known each other for 67 years, and I never imagined I’d be witness to the unavoidable and traumatic reality of your passing.

My visit to you in hospital was filled with an overwhelming mixture of sadness, emotion and pride. At the same time it was profoundly heart-breaking and brought me to the verge of tears when my thoughts automatically flashed back to the man I grew up under. How I wished the day never came when I had to confront the reality of the tall, healthy and strong man with a commanding presence reduced to a shadow of yourself.

You have left us to join the ‘A Team’ of our struggle: Chief Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Yusuf Dadoo, Jack Simons, Moses Kotane, Bram Fischer, Monty Naicker, JB Marks, Helen Joseph, Rusty Bernstein, Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Professor ZK Matthews, Beyers Naude, Lilian Ngoyi, Ma Sisulu and Michael Harmel.

Your inevitable death can never take from our country and the world the values and ideals which you symbolise and shared with us. You are the last of the A-Team to leave us. I again feel the way I did on the night of May 5, 2000, when I was informed of the death of our very dear Tyopho, as we lovingly called Walter. To me, over the years he had become the father I had lost in 1944. I could, and did turn to him for the most personal advice. Now I have lost you, my older brother, comrade and leader. I feel bereft and lonely. To whom do I turn for solace, comfort, and advice?

I had the enviable privilege of being alive and walking the earth with you through the bad times and the good. It has been a long walk, with many challenges that at times seemed insurmountable. And yet we never faltered, and the strength of leaders like you and Walter always shone a light on the path and kept our destination and our people’s future in view.

For invaluable leadership, courage, inspiration and foresight I feel fortunate to have been with you and Tyopho in the three major court cases of the 1950s and 1960s – the Defiance Campaign Trial of 1952, in which we were convicted and sentenced to nine months suspended for two years; the Treason Trial of 1956 to 1961, which would have sent us to jail had we been convicted and the Rivonia Trial of 1963-64 for which we were sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, it was at the Rivonia Trial, when our lawyers and we, the accused, expected that we would receive the death sentence and be hanged, that your exemplary courage, foresight and leadership came to the fore.

You opened the defence case with what has become a universally acclaimed historical address to the court of law. You set the trend of the defence case. In the face of the death sentence you proudly and unflinchingly proclaimed our political beliefs. You did not apologise, nor did you plead for mercy. And you added – if the death sentence is imposed, we should go down in a cloud of glory.

I cannot complete these reminiscences without recalling the almost three decades of our prison years. Considering the manifold deprivations, and the temptations, prison life brings out the best and worst in human nature.

Here again I must recall your exemplary leadership, which you continuously and rightly reminded us was part of a collective. Shortly after our arrival on Robben Island you told us: “We are no longer leaders; we don’t make policy, we don’t give instructions to comrades outside of prison. Our leaders are Chief Luthuli, and our exiled leaders – Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Yusuf Dadoo etc. 

They make policy, they give instructions. We are prisoners and the prison leadership’s task is the welfare of fellow prisoners. The first requirement is to stamp our dignity. We do not tolerate vulgarity or insults by prison warders. We will work as much as we can, and refuse to be driven to fulfil quotas. No matter how hard it is, we should use our time fruitfully. We should continue with our political education. And we should also pursue our studies.”

In your commitment to prioritise the welfare of fellow prisoners, you typically hid the anguish, the anxiety and torments you were experiencing, most especially with regard the irreparable damages inflicted on your closest loved ones. Your deep personal suffering was the cost of your moral commitment and political dedication to justice and equality.

While we caught glimpses of this pain in prison, when you had news of the untimely and unexpected death of your eldest son, and your mother, for example, you shouldered the burden of suffering alone. Not until recently did we for the first time get some insight into what you at times endured. In a letter to Winnie, whose torture and detention you were powerless to prevent, you wrote:

“In June I learnt for the first time you had been confined to bed for two months … is your silence due to worsening of your health?”

And in another letter to her you wrote:

“The crop of miseries we have harvested from the heart-breaking frustrations of the last 15 months are not likely to fade away easily from the mind. I felt as if I have been soaked in gall, every part of me, my flesh, bloodstream, bone and soul, so bitter I am to be completely powerless to help you in the rough and fierce ordeal you are going through.”

In spite of such suffering and humiliation you never showed any signs of lessening your concern for the welfare of your fellow prisoners: your empathy and compassion were a wellspring to all, This calibre of leadership defined what you and your colleagues brought to negotiations with apartheid leaders, which were entered into with the forward-looking spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and nation-building. Once more, you placed the greater good above all else.

You never deviated from the principles that we were expected to uphold in the period of adversity. It is that which enabled us to weather the most trying times in prison, and emerge unshaken. The prisoners upheld your example of refusing to ask for preferential treatment, except for health reasons.

In 1977, 13 years after our imprisonment, you were offered release provided you live in the Transkei. Your reply was: 

“The whole of South Africa belongs to black and white, and I will not be prepared to be confined to a tiny Bantustan.”

You could have easily asked for exemption from pick and shovel work. You did not. You carried out all the prison chores like the rest of us. You took part in all the hunger strikes. When treatment for a severe back problem left me strapped down on the bed for close to 10 days, you spent many hours daily at my bedside to comfort me.

When almost all of us went down during a flu epidemic, you helped to carry out our toilet buckets, wash them and put them in the sun.

In 1982, after 18 years on Robben Island, five of the seven Rivonia Trialists were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. For the first time we were together in one large cell.

In 1985, after you returned from hospital you were moved to a single cell, and not allowed to have any contact with us. You have often said what you missed the most about prison life is the time to be alone and think. Therefore you appeared to welcome this isolation. 

Undoubtedly it was this opportunity to think that led you to take the bold step to talk to the enemy. This was consistent with ANC policy to mobilise the combined pressures of the main pillars of the struggle, namely:

  • The mass struggle in the country (as evidenced by the activities of the UDF and Cosatu)
  • The ANC’s underground activities in the country
  • The increasing international pressure to isolate apartheid South Africa in order to force the enemy to the negotiating table

It was seemingly even bolder to start talking to the other side without even attempting to consult your closest comrade Walter Sisulu who was just a floor above you!

However, it now transpires that you did not want to talk to Walter or anyone else. You, being a super democrat, feared that if three of the five of us opposed any talks with the enemy you would have felt obliged to obey the majority.

When you did start talking to the other side, you made it perfectly clear that as a prisoner you did not have the mandate to negotiate. You were merely attempting to persuade the Government to negotiate with the ANC leadership in exile. But in order to facilitate talks, the Government would have to agree to three conditions, namely:

  • The release of all political prisoners
  • The unbanning of all political organisations
  • Allowing the exiles to return

After several years of talk, the government released the remaining Rivonia men on the 15th of October 1989. By the early 1990s all political prisoners had been released.

On the 2nd of February 1990, President de Klerk announced that you and all other political prisoners would be released; that all political organisations were unbanned and that exiles would be allowed to return.

Fast-forward to April 1994, when all the people of South Africa – black and white – voted together for a new, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

I’m fully aware of your repeated reminders that you are part of a collective. And more importantly the issue that deeply worried you in prison was:

“The false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint.”

You also said:
“I wanted to be like an ordinary human being with virtues and vices.”

Having noted your sincerity and honesty, it is however impossible to alter the historically and universally acclaimed position that makes you the symbol of non-racialism, of reconciliation, of forgiveness and the undisputed founding father of the new South Africa.

While we may be drowned in sorrow and grief, we must be proud and grateful that after the long walk paved with obstacles and suffering, we salute you as a fighter for freedom to the end.

Farewell my elder brother, my mentor, my leader. With all the energy and determination at our command, we pledge to join the people of South Africa and the world to perpetuate the ideals and values for which you have devoted your life.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kenya says there is no need for mediation with Tanzania being a member of the EAC

The common market was signed on November, 20 2009 by the five EAC Heads of State, and came into force on July 1, 2010 where the five east African countries freed up the movement of people, products and capital across borders, furthering East Africa’s dream of broad political unification.

The transformation and growth of the East African Community, aims to become a monetary union by 2012 and have a common currency by 2015, with political federation to come soon after.

The East African Community was founded in 1967 by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda but collapsed a decade later over political infighting between member states.

The community has expressed interest in a common currency, as well as a single tourist visa. The member states are also collaborating on building a regional railway line that would run from the Indian Ocean to Burundi, bordering Lake Tanganyika.

The EAC integration process involves four stages - the Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and finally a Political Federation. The integration process is currently at common market stage and expected to move to monetary union (MU).

The EAC countries are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda with the new Republic of South Sudan expressing its wish to become a member.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Why we must re-think about food security?

Agriculture, being practiced in all parts of the country, is regarded as the backbone of Kenya in terms of economic growth.

People depend on agriculture not just for raw materials but also for their food supply. Food is necessary to satisfy hunger and to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

With an expanding world population, the agricultural sector is under tremendous stress to increase its output.

Each year governments allocate funding to the sector for sustainable development. However, they have struggled to bring about tangible changes in the sector.

Climate change, rapid population growth and urbanization present the most daunting challenge to meeting the goal of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty in Sub Saharan Africa.

With two years left to 2015- deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- a framework  established by the United Nations in 2000 to guide development in the areas of poverty, education, hunger, and disease.

As Kenya, we are yet to achieve MDG one of alleviating people dying of hunger because there is insufficient supply of food, and people lack enough food to eat. However, according to “The Millennium Development Goals 2011” report, notes that Kenya is still with the most undernourished people despite efforts to uplift its people from poverty with a 25- 35 per cent noting that, “Based on current trends, sub-Saharan Africa will be unable to meet the hunger-reduction target by 2015.”

The image of Kenya children in the arid and semi arid regions starving and dying from hunger and malnutrition is certainly emotive and swiftly moves the nation and international community to compassionate action.

Given the excruciating spectacle of death and hunger, it is easy to argue that low input, low productivity rain-fed small farm agricultural production systems are the culprit and must be replaced with production systems that utilize fertilizers, high yielding hybrid seeds, pesticides and irrigation.

Early 2010, during the opening of a three day International Conference on Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, the Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society Abbas Gullet, said that a great percentage of Kenya was in the arid and semi arid and its economy was vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

  “...droughts and floods have far reaching impacts on our economy. The country is just going through one of the worst droughts that have impacted negatively on our livestock systems. Food security, water resources, energy among other fabrics of our socio-economic support systems,” Abbas disclosed.

Abbas had appealed to all the key players to proactively work together in sharing knowledge learned from community based programmes  and other key disaster risk reduction players to address risk challenges at community levels in Kenya.

Similarly, long queues of farmers have frequently been witnessed at various National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores across the Western Province and the North Rift for the government subsidized fertilizer, farmers in Kakamega every planting season.

Consequently, the country's major seed producing company Kenya Seed has occasionally announced major shortage of maize seeds in the middle of the planting season leaving many farmers stranded not knowing what to do or where else they can could obtain good certified seeds to plant as fear of getting late in planting griped them.

Have we learnt?

African agriculture is sensitive to climate change – Kenya not left out. Many farmers in Africa will experience net revenue losses from warming according to ‘Climate Change and African Agriculture Policy Note no. 18 of August 2006 done by the Center for Environmental Economics and policy in Africa (CEEPA). It notes that, irrigation is an effective adaptation against loss of rainfall and higher temperatures provided there is sufficient water available.

Scientists note that Africa’s vulnerability depends on exposure of people and assets and capacity and means to respond.

All these justify that, rural populations heavily depend on rain fed agriculture are most affected and the causes of food insecurity are a combination of depending rural poverty, agricultural productivity, inadequate investment in rural infrastructure, population pressure in fragile areas and extreme weather events.

Despite the potential of rainwater harvesting to empower local communities and enhance their development capacities, there are several hindrances. These include: lack of awareness, lack of institutional framework in terms of non-existent or poor policies at national and local levels, information gaps, low investment in research and development and lack of private sector participation indicates the World Bank Group Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development – SFCCD  “Making Development Climate resilient: for Sub-Saharan Africa” report.

The greatest challenge in Kenya is the liberation of millions of impoverished and disenfranchised people in the rural communities.

Development of the rural sector must be an integral part of economic development few countries have experienced sustained economic development without growth of the rural sector. Similarly, all countries that have experienced significant growth have also achieved a more rapidly growing economy an example is Rwanda and Malawi.

Development of the rural communities is therefore, not just an end in itself but has a direct and beneficial effect on overall economic development of the nation.

A robust rural economy, income growth and employment are crucial for achieving the Vision  2030. Rural populations will continue to grow and there will continue to be weak absorption of labour by other economic sectors. Thus in the short-term and the long-term there will be a need for productive engagement in rural activities.

Small land holders in the agricultural sector must be sensitized away from subsistence farming and guided towards more rewarding commercial farming.

Improving productivity and maximising incomes of farmers.

This can be achieved through a program for subsistence farmers that not only improve productivity, but also reduce weather dependency and provide simple financing instruments to encourage investment in new technologies and equipment, increased land ownership, and easier access to local markets. Lifting subsistence farmers out of their precarious position would be equivalent to halving the number of hungry people,” says Franz Fischler, a former European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries.

He adds, 
“To tackle global food security successfully, we must change the way we treat rural development, which requires adopting a much more bottom-up approach.”

Such a strategy could accelerate agricultural growth and alleviate poverty. Nevertheless, attention to food security will continue to be important for nutritional purposes. There, however, remains a need to focus on specialisation and developing local markets.

This is a reason why the ministry of finance, considers access to water and sustainable ways of harvesting rainwater for developing the Arid and Semi Arid lands to reduce reliance on water trucking, termed as expensive and unsustainable; need for irrigated food production as opposed to the current rain-fed agriculture to ensure food security.

The ministry also under the Economic Stimulus Program further aims at transforming the agriculture sector by supporting small farmer through agribusiness fund to ensure that farmers get essential financial assistance for tools, seeds, fertilizers, and other production chain to boost agricultural production and sustain rural livelihoods.

Earlier, less had been done to educate the nation on how to harness the benefits of planting and conserving forest. According to the United Nation Environmental Programme, Division of Environment policy, in many countries, rainwater harvesting is still marginal and often goes unacknowledged as a means to improve the economic, social and environmental livelihoods of local communities (urban and rural).

Further, the untapped resource of rainwater is a valuable component of integrated water resources management that contributes to the global efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.

The pace of any paradigm shift will almost certainly depend on the perception of government’s response to addressing risk factors associated with market dependency to meet basic needs and generate income. Markets, for example, will be expected to function optimally and to the benefit of the poor.

Risks can be mitigated by improving security in land tenure and engaging in contingency planning for natural hazards such as drought and winter flooding in the cape flatland. Access roads must be improved and market access fees eliminated to facilitate products being brought to market. This will require greater investment in infrastructure and facilitation of efficient channels of distribution. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Unsafe abortion is one of the continent’s biggest threats to women’s health

Expectant mothers still die from four major causes: severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion.

Early November 2010, a student of Moi Girls Kamusinga , Bungoma County died after an abortion attempt. The principal of the school Mrs. Josephine Wanyama said that the student was in class when she screamed due to excruciating labour pains but later died when she was being rushed to hospital for medical attention.

The doctor’s report confirmed that the student, who had been under his grandma's care, had attempted to flush out the 5 month foetus after the doctors found its remnants after operating on the student.

This is one case of the number of teenagers who are dying in an attempt to procure an abortion.

 However, how many girls do we have that are lured into this trend of purchasing a Sh400 ‘Postinor-2 tablets’ dose commonly referred to as P2 (An oral emergency contraceptive which can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex) easily accessed in pharmacy?

Another sad story by Kwamboka Oyaro, began as:

"Why isn’t my baby growing?" she frantically sought an explanation. "Nobody knows why that happens but you need to be cleaned immediately," the doctor said with finality and turned to answer a call on his mobile phone. The woman looked at him in horror as he joked and laughed with the caller.

Yet, at private hospital in the same county, money changed hands as a woman was in labour. Her husband did not want another child and instructed the health workers to tie her fallopian tubes (tubal ligation, a permanent family planning method) as she underwent a C-section. She was never given a chance to discuss this issue and decide for herself that she wanted her reproductive chapter closed.

What about, men who find themselves alone with babies whose mothers died on the labour table. They have no clue of what to do with the children.

These scenarios are common when it comes to reproductive and maternal health, scenarios of failed policies and of ignorance, of lack of political commitment, inefficiency and unprofessional  Stories that simply reveal the conspiracy to deprive women of access to maternal health care and facilities. It is just a conspiracy of death.

Ten years ago, the Government committed itself to ensure that Millennium Development Goalnumber five was realised by 2015. The goal states: Achieving good maternal health requires quality reproductive health services and well-timed interventions to ensure a woman’s safe passage to motherhood.

 “Unsafe abortion is one of the continent’s biggest threats to women’s health. While abortion is safe in countries where it is legal and provided by trained medical professionals, clandestine abortion in most of Africa leads to death and serious injury,” says President of GuttmacherInstitute, Sharon Camp.

Camp notes that, more than 26,000 African women die as a result of unsafe abortion annually as another 1.7 million are hospitalised, and many others suffer serious health complications, but do not seek treatment.

 According to a report released  2010 September,trends in maternal mortality by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)and the World Bank showed that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.

However the report states that, progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75pc between 1990 and 2015.

One reason is that as a result of improved diet and better standards of living, girls now get their first menstruation quite early. Today, girls aged between nine and 13 are becoming pregnant.
Every day, about 1,000 women died due to these complications in 2008. Out of the 1,000, 570 lived in sub-Saharan Africa, 300 in South Asia and five in high-income countries.

The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is about 36 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country.

"To achieve our global goal of improving maternal health and to save women's lives we need to do more to reach those who are most at risk," says Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

"That means reaching women in rural areas and poorer households, women from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups..."

Consequently, more needs to be done to reduce this number of deaths. This is a time the government should recognize the role of the health care providers more than ever before especially after they were spread across the country by the twin Health Ministries.

Healthcare providers are the key to any successful maternal health programme but rarely have their views been sought in a structured and dedicated way so as to provide a useful body of evidence about their perspectives on the problems and their solutions.

Midwives, nurses and doctors around the world have a direct voice about the barriers they face in delivering, lifesaving maternal healthcare a strong focus on identifying solutions to longstanding barriers in the delivery of maternal care.

This is because, they understand the way that socio-economic inequality plays out in different settings is important for determining the most effective policy and programme responses to access to health care.

Kenya, like other countries in the world seems to be headed towards an integrated health information system (Kenya Draft Bill and Policy Document 2009). This calls for the development and enhancement of systems and records management for effective collaboration of conventional and traditional medicine sectors.

Of importance is to understand the health indicators in the health information and record management systems which include morbidity indicators, child health indicators, maternal health indictors, supplies indicators and community health care indicators (Maternal mortality is described as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy or delivery from any cause related to or worsened by the pregnancy or its management).

The Provincial Director, Medical Services in Western Province, Dr. Godrick Onyango, noted that according to the national health indices, 32 per cent of women deliver in hospitals.

To effectively deal with this, the government was urged to support nurses. “The community needs to support nurses for better health”.

However, with these aspects, is it time we thought of new approaches to the whole issue of health to reduce the number of maternal deaths?

 Research indicates that if women had access to basic maternal health services, 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented. Vitamin A supplementation, which is readily available per child, could save over a quarter of a million young lives annually by reducing the risk and severity of diarrhea and infections.

Additionally, investment in the health of mothers and children reaps widespread development returns that can benefit communities for generations to come.

The survival and health of mothers is essential to the well-being of the entire family - children who lose their mothers are five times more likely to die in infancy that those who do not.
Healthy children, meanwhile, are more likely to benefit from educational opportunities and grow into productive adults.

Law makers need to play a vital role in making maternal survival a national priority and supporting enactment of supportive legislation that addresses root causes of maternal death and disability from pregnancy.

MDG five can be achieved but only if there is political will and financial investment. The government should increase financial allocations for maternal health programmes to ensure all women in Kenya, regardless of their social status, have access to the quality maternal health services.

First published by 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The struggle to defend our independence is a daily calling for all Kenyans - President Uhuru Kenyatta

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sometimes, even the sunset puzzles, as we look for the lines that propel the clouds - Professor Kofi Awoonor

Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees;

Sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together

There is dancing in the streets again
the laughter of children rings
through the house
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin 
But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn 
We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures

Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan

Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood 
We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree  

From “Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems,” selected by Kofi Anyidoho, University of Nebraska Press and the African PoetryBook Fund, 2014. Professor Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanaian poet and diplomat, died after sustaining injuries during the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.