The obstetrics & Gynecology department often dubbed the women health department is one of the most popular departments for medical students and other health profession students seeking to have an international experience. As one contemplates travelling abroad for the programs it is important to have some details about some of the conditions affecting women in the destinations of choice.
If you choose to travel to Kenya, here are some prevalent conditions affecting women in Kenya
- Maternal health complications
According to WHO for every 100,000 live births in Kenya , 362 women die with most of these deaths being as a result of insufficient preventive measures and timely interventions.
This however does not mean that nothing has been done to reduce this number. Kenya has made strides to improve women health and especially maternal health. Government and private entities such as Beyond Zero Campaign an initiative by the state’s first lady are working to ensure especially that maternal deaths are eliminated. While not all women may get skilled care at childbirth, 6 out of 10 can now receive skilled care at childbirth and over half get postnatal care.
Despite these improvements at the national level, challenges remain in addressing the geographical, rural/urban, socioeconomic and educational disparities and inequities. In particular, education and wealth are strongly associated with service utilization. Only about half of mothers residing in rural areas received skilled care or delivered in a health facility compared to 82 percent of mothers residing in urban areas.
One of the major causes of maternal death is obstetric haemorrhage contributing to about 40% of all death followed by hypertensive disorders (15%) and pregnancy related infections (10%).
Complications from abortion are also some of the attributors of hospitalisation and death among Kenya women. These include fever, sepsis, shock and organ failure.
Malaria is among the leading causes of morbidity in Kenya with pregnant women and children under five being at greater risk of contracting the disease. Statistics by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that 16,000 people died of malaria in 2016 making it the 2nd highest cause of death. Malaria is prevalent in areas around Lake Victoria and the coastal Kenya. This however doesn’t exempt other regions in Kenya as research indicates that 70% of the population is at risk .
In Kenya, cancer is the third leading cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases (National Cancer Control Strategy, 2017). In women, breast cancer and cervical cancer are the most prevalent claiming, According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, the annual number of cervical cancer cases is 4,802 and annual number of deaths is 2,451. Most cancer cases however go undiagnosed, while those diagnosed are done in the late stages. This has been attributed majorly to lack of awareness, inadequate diagnostic and treatment facilities and the huge cost of its treatment.
There are currently a few numbers of Oncologists with about 20 for a population of over 40 million people. Currently the 3 government facilities offering Cancer diagnosis and services are Kenyatta National Hospital, Coast Provincial General Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. The rest are mission and private hospital.
- HIV /Aids
The high burden of HIV and AIDS in Kenya accounts for an estimated 29 per cent of annual adult deaths, 20 percent of maternal mortality, and 15 percent of deaths of children under the age of five. Out of 1,517, 700 Kenyans living with HIV, 775,939 are women. Worldwide, Women account for more than half the number of people living with HIV. Young women (10-24 years old) are twice as likely to acquire HIV as young men the same age. HIV is most often transmitted from a mother to her child during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding, providing antiretroviral medicines to mothers throughout the breastfeeding period helps in lowering the chances of transmission to the child.
These are just some of the some of the conditions affecting women; you will however encounter other situations like Female Genital Mutilation, domestic violence just to mention a few. You will see how culture plays a role in women health. There are some harmful cultural practices that forbids access to maternal healthcare, there are some communities that still practice FGM and there are some which a third party consent is the one to determine whether a woman gives birth in the hospital or not.
You will also learn how social class plays a role in women health for instance a wealthy woman is four times as likely to deliver in health facility with a skilled birth attendant, this is not always the case with poorer women. On the contrary, they tend to receive poorer quality of maternal healthcare (Sara Hadin, 2017)
And even as we #PressforProgress, travel abroad to learn and play a role in improving women health.