Principal Secretary Dr. Khadijah Kassachoon opens a one day National Validation Forum of the Kenya Health Sector, Gender and Equality Policy at a Nairobi Hotel

Ministry of health officials, Depatments and Agencies, County Executives committees of Health, Health Development Partners, the Private sector and Civil Society Organizations including Non-Governmental Oragnizations and Faith Based Organizations, today converged at a Nairobi hotel to review and input into the draft policy to make it more relevant and applicable within the diversity of Kenyan Regions and cultures towrds the finalization of the Kenya Health Sector Gender and Equality Policy.

The ministy’s Principal Secretary Dr. Khadijah Kassachoon, commended the Gok-UN Joint programm on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, UNIFPA, WHO, and USAID-Health policy project for their roles and other stakeholders for their roles in the process.

Dr. Kassachoon said because the health systems need reform, as required by the Constitution of Kenya 2010, we have an opportunity to ensure that the reform process addressed the problems of long standing lack of equality between women and men, both as providers and recipients of health care.

Gender equity, she added, ,means elimination of unnecessary, unjust and avoidable differences in health status and survival. It also means allocation of resources according to distinct needs.

She challenged participants to ensure coherence, theoretically sound and evidence-based policy on gender and health. “This policy must include initiatives that extend beyond conventional health policy and services because of the power dimensions of gender.

Chair, County Executive Committee for Health Dr. Maurice Siminyu, regretted that some rural based Counties sufffered the highest maternal mortality due to some retrogressive cultural practices, particulalry practiced by men.

He disclosed that maternal mortality for Busia County stood at 800 for every 100,000 births every year, closely followed by Mandera at 795 for every 100,000. He expressed optimism that the new policy will address the shortcomings in the draft, align them with the current constitution, and address all the challenges to enable women from rural areas enjoy modern methods of health care.

UNIFPA pledged its total support for any measures, laws and regulations that will assist reduce the high infant and maternal deaths in the developing world such as Kenya.

Some of the issues the policy document captures include that some communities did not utilize skilled delivery services because of cultural restrictions. These cultural preferences, together with the chronic shortage of skilled professionals, and non-affordability of fees and services, come out as the main factors that perpetuate the demand and use of Traditional Birth Attendants.

Doctors Maryanne Ndonga and Catherine Ngugi took participants through the draft policy’s objectives, and the policy development process, while Mr. Elkana Ongudi presented the draft policy on National Health Gender and Equality.