Fulfilling the right to maternal healthcare in Kenya
Melanie, Tamara Anami
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The Government of Kenya is legally bound to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to maternal health care, yet women continue to endure abuse and negligence when giving birth in public health facilities. The right to maternal health encompasses both freedoms and entitlements including the right to be free from torture, non-consensual procedures, detention and other related rights. Most importantly, an entitlement to a system of health protection which provides equality of opportunity for all women to enjoy the highest attainable level of maternal health. Cognizant to the fact that the rights to equality and non-discrimination regardless of gender, age, or financial resources are the substratum underlying; human rights doctrines, fundamental principles of regional law as well as facets of customary international law. Lack of assistance before, during, and immediately after labour; rough and degrading treatment during examinations; physical and verbal abuse; lack of basic infrastructure and supplies; inability to handle complications; and deliveries in unhygienic conditions continue to endanger the health and lives of marginalized women and their babies in Kenya. Prolonged traumas of these negative experiences have discouraged women from seeking reproductive health care services. This has continued to have an ongoing, adverse long-term impact on women living below the poverty line. A study conducted by the Maternal Health Task Force in 2017 showed that on average women living in the most impoverished areas of Kenya received 0.3333% of basic clinical antenatal care compared to women in the middleclass who received an estimated 60%. Similarly, only 8% of impoverished women had access to adequate delivery compared to 24% of women in the middle class With this issue becoming increasingly pervasive, there is need for the government to take steps to progressively realize and ensure that no woman is priced out of the right to the highest attainable standard of maternity healthcare.