Thriving Futures in Kenya: Respecting Maternal Health

Tara PetersonNews

Want to know more about how a Thriving Future priority comes to life? In Kenya, our community partners in Ngilai used the Thriving Future process to map their priorities for action. First up? A maternity shelter to fulfill their broader goal of “increasing access to health care, respecting and integrating our culture of Samburu medicine” into broader healthcare services.

Over the course of five months the maternity shelter went from idea to reality. See how below.

First, for background, in 2022, Legado, conservancy teams, and Ngilai community members charted personal and community legacies— resulting in their legacy plan and actions toward health, education, and biodiversity preservation goals. (Read more about how this happens here).

Once the Ngilai community had decided its broader goals, the construction of the maternity shelter was the agreed upon first step. Key components to that shelter were that it be built to enable traditional Samburu birth methods (including facilitating the presence of a traditional birth attendant) and be attached to the Lolkuniyani Dispensary (a health clinic) for access to supplemental or emergency care. One of the reasons women had not been using the clinic was that they did not feel comfortable in the space: the rooms were cold and the beds did not allow women to use positions traditionally associated with birth.

A learning visit was made by three community members, a traditional birth attendant, the Community Health Committee Chairman, the Dispensary Nurse in Charge and the Legado Team to a maternity shelter in Sereolipi three hours away to learn more about the successes and challenges the Sereolipi community faced with their maternity structure.

The community then made a plan and started sourcing materials to use in construction. Roselyn Lororua, the Resident Dispensary Nurse in Charge, was a lead champion in the process to oversee this sourcing and building. All together, 35 volunteers (led by 28 women) from 10 villages participated in the construction of the shelter over two months.

Day 1 of the construction of the Maternal Shelter at Lolkuniyani Dispensary in Kenya
Community members convening to draw the design of the Maternal Shelter at Lolkuniyani Dispensary.
Community members constructing the shelter.

On May 5th, the maternity shelter was opened with a joyful celebration with the community champions who led the work. There was singing, prayers and thanksgiving for the realization of this project.

“Despite all the challenges we faced as we constructed this shelter, with drought being the hardest, we stuck together," Purity Lekipila shared.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health were on hand to open the shelter and congratulated the community on their efforts, pledging the Ministry's full support to provide great maternal health care. Within a week of its opening, two healthy babies had already been born at the shelter to healthy mothers. We are honored to learn that one, a baby girl, was named Monicah, after Dr. Monicah Mbibah, a Legado team member who worked closely with the community to achieve this priority.

The shelter is now open seven days a week with Roselyn and her team ready to provide support. Community Health Volunteers refer mothers to the clinic, offering a safe and comfortable environment for birth. The medical supplies used at the shelter are supplied by the County Health Department and maintained by the team at the Lolkuniyani Dispensary and monitoring and resupply are done on a monthly basis.

What’s next? Achieving a Thriving Future is an ongoing process. It’s also interlinked. Ngiali’s community members link their health to the success of their children in school, to their ability to steward their rangelands and sustain their livelihoods, and to the maintenance of their cultural traditions. The specific focus on maternal health is tied to all of the above and to the overall goal of healthy families and healthy women. Stay tuned for more stories about how Legado is supporting equitable and inclusive community-led processes and their results!

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