Twice as many ‘safe’ births in Kenyan health facilities? Still no way to verify claim

The number of women giving birth in Kenya’s health facilities has doubled after government investments in maternal health, the country’s health minister recently said. It’s a claim often made by officials.

Sicily Kariuki said the rise was the result of a June 2013 presidential directive that did away with user fees for maternity services in public hospitals.

“Since then Kenya has witnessed a 100% increase in the number of women giving birth safely in health facilities,” Kariuki tweeted in October 2018.

Data not available to the public

The source of the claim was the District Health Information System (DHIS), Kariuki’s office told Africa Check in an email. The health ministry said 1.27 million expectant mothers gave birth under the care of skilled medical attendants every year, up from 600,323 a year in 2013.

In March 2017, Africa Check examined these figures when President Uhuru Kenyatta mentioned them in his state of the nation address. But we found no data to either prove or disprove the claim. One reason is that the information in the database can only be viewed with the ministry’s approval.

What does publicly available data show?

In 2013, there were 870,559 registered births in Kenya, according to the national statistics office. Of these, 711,105 (81.7%) took place in health facilities, and the rest at home (159,494).

But only 58.4% of all births in the country were recorded, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics estimated.

In 2016, the agency’s data shows births in health facilities increased by 23% to 875,101. Home deliveries dropped by 54.1% to 73,223.

In that year there were 948,351 recorded births, estimated to be 64.1% of all births.

Different numbers from health ministry

But national treasury data submitted by the health ministry records 972,526 deliveries in public health facilities in the 2016/17 financial year. This is an 8.9% drop from the number of deliveries in the 2015/16 financial year.

In trying to verify this claim we have therefore come up against a restricted database, different reference periods (calendar years and financial years) and incomplete birth records. – Vincent Ng’ethe (8/11/2018)


 

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