Options’ partnerships with governments is transforming the way health systems offer essential life-saving services, especially to mothers and babies.
Five years ago, our UK aid-funded Maternal and Newborn Improvement (MANI) project supported the sub-national government in Bungoma, Kenya to equip a blood satellite centre in order to offer quality blood services. This marked the beginning of making safe blood available to the local communities.
In 2018, Options' Evidence for Action (E4A)-MamaYe project, which also works in Bungoma, looked at MPDSR data to determine the leading causes of mortality for women. Shockingly, one out of every two women between 2017 and 2019 died due to excessive bleeding during pregnancy and childbirth. These mothers’ lives could have been saved. Further data analysis also revealed a critical shortage of blood in the county.
To address this issue, the E4A programme launched the ‘Damu ni uhai’ campaign, which was designed and created with civil society organisations, the Kenyan government and media partners. As a result of this campaign, the county government re-committed to establishing a fully-fledged blood donor centre and launched a costed plan for blood services.
For over three years, investment and release of resources for blood services has been a key advocacy issue for E4A-MamaYe, which was eventually picked up by local civil society organisatons and media coalitions with the goal to ensure that this issue was prioritised in government planning. When blood services removed from the budget, the coalition advocated for its reinstatement and held the county to its commitment.
Currently, the county only has a blood satellite centre that is supported by a regional blood centre many miles away. But in April 2021, the county government of Bungoma held a ground-breaking ceremony to announce the start of constructing and equipping a new blood donor centre in the county. This will mean blood services are more accessible and efficient.
For a lifesaving commodity like blood, every minute matters and this new blood centre will save many lives. The E4A-MamaYe coalitions will champion accountability to make sure resources are allocated in subsequent financial years and funds are released on time, for this project to complete.
The story of Bungoma highlights the specific role of evidence in decision making and government planning. Processes like MPDSR play a key part in strengthening the health system. It was through MPDSR data that the idea for a blood campaign was crafted. Bungoma county now has a MPDSR strategy, which outlines gaps for resource allocation.
Stephen Yambi, E4A-MamaYe’s Bungoma County Advisor has been among partners involved in supporting the health department to finalise its work plan for the next financial year 2021/2022. Stephen is happy that now the county government is taking responsibility and integrating the MPDSR strategy in their annual work planning;
“This is critical in ensuring prioritisation of the identified gaps in the early stages of planning, to attract funding in the county health budget. The result is the strengthening of MPDSR processes and systems in Bungoma County, putting the ‘R’ (responses) into action, thus preventing maternal and perinatal deaths."
Ending preventable causes of maternal mortality is also a core objective for the UK aid-funded MANI-QC project. Throughout the pandemic period, MANI-QC has supported monthly blood drives in four counties; Kwale, Mombasa, Kericho and Nandi. Over 2,687 pints of blood have been collected in the past three months, from 29 blood drives across the counties. The support has also been focused on reducing the lead time for blood screening and the capacity of staff at the Kwale Satellite to operationalise onsite screening.
Additionally, MANI-QC procured the first two kits used in the practical trainings and kick started the screening at the Kwale satellite centre. To date, this satellite centre has screened more than 586 units, reducing the lead time experienced at the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre in Mombasa and Nairobi from up to three days, to less than three hours. The county has recently procured an additional two screening kits and budgeted for another four, to ensure continuous screening.
This success story demonstrates the strong results partnerships can achieve in building stronger health systems.
This blog was written by E4A-MamaYe's Communications Manager, Meshack Acholla