Kenya has established itself as a regional powerhouse with impressive foreign direct investment, steady economic growth, and birth of the silicon savannah. However in relation to maternal health care the Kenyans are not doing a very good job. Currently the country has a maternal mortality rate of 488 deaths per 100,000 live births. For this reason the Beyond Zero Foundation was formed in January 2014 to partner with the government in reducing maternal and child mortality. This is the brain child of the First Lady of the Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta as it is on the initiatives outlined in her strategic framework towards HIV control, promotion of maternal, new born and child health in Kenya. In line with the UN Millennium Development Goals four and five, Kenya had committed to reduce deaths to 147 per 100,000 live births by 2015 whereas the First Lady wants to reduce it to Beyond Zero.
March 8th was the date selected for the inaugural Beyond Zero Campaign Marathon where hundreds of runners turned up in Nairobi to help raise money. Registration for participation in the marathon was 1500 KSH per person (roughly 15 USD) and this will serve as the main source of funds for the clinics, as over 20,000 people participated. It was a very glamorous event as the Deputy President, Cabinet Secretaries and local celebrities participated. The President himself was there to receive the first lady as she crossed the finish line. Huge corporations such as Kenya Commercial Bank, Tullow Oil and the Dangote Group among others supported the cause by each donated an undisclosed amount towards the campaign. Since inception the Beyond Zero Foundation has been able to purchase and hand over to county officials 21 clinics in the spirit of bringing healthcare closer to the average individual. This marathon’s target was to raise enough money for another 27 clinics.
Reactions from Kenyans were varied with some blindly supporting the cause while others being more cautious posing the question ‘why should I pay taxes and then still pay to run to keep our babies alive?’ The health sector is currently entitled to 43 billion shillings from the annual budget, and one would think if used correctly this colossal amount of money would be enough. This has led a section of Kenyans to dismiss the First Lady running into the President’s arms as she crosses the finish line as a PR stunt; simply because the Foundation has exposed the government as inefficient in carrying out their mandate of providing healthcare for their citizens. However on the flipside, Madeleine Albright famously said “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” it is clear the First Lady is a true believer in this philosophy. Mrs Margret Kenyatta is demonstrating that while your husband is the most powerful person within the borders of your country does not mean you should just sit around and spend taxpayers’ money. She has become a true inspiration for First Ladies all over the world and women across Africa, even winning the UN Person of The Year Award in 2014.
Thank you Mama Kenyatta for showing us that everyone can have purpose and drive change to impact the society!