Between January and May in 2012, The Road Less Travelled (TRLT) project undertook a maternal and child health (MCH) baseline survey among Maasai and Samburu nomadic pastoralist communities in Laikipia and Samburu, Kenya.
The purpose of this baseline assessment was to understand the existing context and situation prior to the implementation of TRLT project initiatives in Kenya, and to identify the current status of key thematic areas that impact on MCH outcomes among nomadic pastoralists.
Maternal and child health baseline survey among Maasai and Samburu nomadic pastoralist communities in Laikipia and Samburu, Kenya.
A broad holistic strengths-based approach was adopted during the design of the project to include a focus on the key determinants of health. The thematic areas captured in the baseline study reflect this focus, and include:
- Knowledge, attitudes and practices in relation to core MCH indicators;
- Family planning
- Disease and immunisation;
- Access to health services;
- Access to literacy and education;
- Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and
A quantitative questionnaire was administered to 800 pastoralist households across Laikipia and Samburu. The questionnaire was administered to a man and a woman from each of the participating households. Qualitative data was also captured via a series of focus group discussions with men, women and traditional birth attendants.
The findings allow for a deeper understanding of the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding MCH and other issues impacting on health in these communities. This data will be used to inform The Road Less Travelled’s project strategy and set baseline evaluation indicators by which impact and change in the communities will be measured over time.
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The Road Less Travelled project partners will take to the stage at the Global Maternal Health Conference next month, to represent the nomadic pastoralist communities the project works with in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The conference, which is being held in Tanzania from 15-17 January 2013, brings together scientists, researchers, and policy-makers from all over the world to network, share knowledge, and build on progress toward eradicating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity by improving the quality of care.
Valerie Browning, Australian midwife and founder of the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), will be part of a panel presenting strategies to eliminate barriers to skilled birth attendance.
Valerie Browning (right) will be a panellist at the Global Maternal Health Conference in January 2013, presenting the Afar Pastoralist Development Association’s strategy for safe motherhood to a global audience.
Image: Anglican Overseas Aid
Recognising the important role of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in maternal and child health development in pastoralist communities, APDA is working with TBAs, communities, and local governments to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in Afar region of Ethiopia. Valerie will share APDA’s community-level strategy for safe motherhood in her presentation titled “Trained traditional birth attendants: Today’s missed opportunity”.
Travelling through Samburu County, Kenya, you can’t help but gaze in wonder at the vast, dusty landscape and the huge numbers of livestock that are herded through the region. Beside them is often a child as young as five years.
For children growing up in nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralist communities, mainstream education has, traditionally, not been an option. As cultural mores dictate ways of life, young girls and boys are often obligated to take up the role of shepherds for their family’s livestock, covering great distances with their animals in search of fresh pastures for grazing.
The vast landscape of Kenya’s nomadic pastoralists, on the road north to Samburu County.
Image: Anglican Overseas Aid / Matthew Willman
Education, in the past, may have been considered low on the list of needs within this setting. Now this view is gradually changing, but the question of accessibility remains. The herding responsibilities of children during day mean they have little opportunity to attend mainstream schools, even with the support of their families. To make any progress in improving education for marginalised communities, alternative education models are required.
Marianetta reaches down over her heavily pregnant belly to drop a few seeds into the freshly ploughed soil. In three months’ time she hopes her young family will be reaping the rewards of their harvest.
These seeds symbolise the beginning of something much bigger for Marianetta and her unborn child, and the community they belong to, where poor nutrition is a big factor in maternal and child health.
Marianetta, an expectant mother from Samburu County, Kenya, plants beans in a newly ploughed field before the coming rainy season.
Image: Anglican Overseas Aid / Matthew Willman
Marianetta explains how the community worked together to plough 200 acres of soil by hand. She says it took about three days to plant one acre, and the planting is now almost complete. Just in time, it seems, as the baby is due any day now.
As the community waits for the coming rainy season, she will travel about 40 kilometres on a rough road to another town for a planned caesarean section delivery. Her first child was a difficult birth, and the local dispensary is not equipped for emergency surgery.