Eyebrows raised over huge drop in birth, death listing

Monday, August 10th, 2020 00:00 | By
Breastfeeding. Photo/Courtesy

Registration officials are grappling with a worrying trend where a high number of expectant mothers are opting to deliver from home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Furthermore, recent statistics from the Civil Registration Services (CRS) show that many people could be quietly dying from their homesteads and being buried without the knowledge of the authorities.

Worse still, Covid-19 protocols that require the body of a dead person to be disposed of within 24 hours and without post-mortem have made it difficult for the authorities and relatives to determine the cause of one’s death.

CRS director Janet Mucheru, the number of registered births and deaths have fallen since March when the first case of Covid-19 was detected.

“Covid-19 pandemic seems to have disrupted some life-saving health services such as childbirth care, putting millions of pregnant mothers and their babies at great risk.

The government is particularly concerned with the high number of expectant mothers opting to give birth from their homes instead of hospitals,” Mucheru told People Daily

 The overall number of women opting to deliver from their homes has fallen by 13.3 per cent, says  Mucheru, adding that the majority of mothers worry that the high volumes of Covid-19 infected patients in hospitals could put a baby at risk of contracting the virus in the hours and days after birth, a belief she disputes on grounds that facilities for patients infected with the virus are separated from normal ones.

Mothers in coastal counties lead in the statistics, with 30 per cent of expectant mothers shying away from visiting hospitals in fear of contracting the virus. 

Joining Lamu on the list are Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River, Kwale, Murangá, Homa Bay, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Taita Taveta, Laikipia, Kajiado, Bungoma, Mandera, West Pokot, Nandi and Kiambu.

But the trend has been different in Meru, Busia, Vihiga, Bomet. Kitui and Embu, among others, where expectant mothers prefer hospitals to home deliveries.

It is still not clear whether pregnant women with Covid-19 can pass the virus onto the foetus during pregnancy or delivery. 

Limited reports

So far, no infants born to mothers with coronavirus have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

But available study suggests that young children, particularly infants, may be vulnerable to critical illness.

CDC has also noted that, based on limited case reports, some adverse infant outcomes, such as pre-term birth, have been reported among infants born to mothers who tested positive for the virus, though it is not clear whether these outcomes were related to the mother’s infection.

“In fact, CDC has encouraged hospitals to consider separating a new-born from a mother confirmed positive for Covid-19 to reduce the risk of transmission,” says Prof Mwau Matilu, the head of research and testing at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, who is also a microbiologist.

Mucheru says they were able to determine the rising number of home births due to the dwindling numbers in registration of births.

In March, the country registered 87, 040 registered births, compared to 95, 596, thereby recording a nine per cent drop.

The following month of April recorded 82, 583 registered births, compared to 100, 896, which was 18 per cent dip. 

In May, CRS registered  71, 501 births, compared to 110, 792, which is a 35.3 per cent drop.  

Mucheru now says the low delivery in health facilities has impacted on birth registration.

“Apart from the fear of being infected with Covid-19, the Ministry of Health stay at home protocol and curfews have affected mothers seeking delivery in health facilities,” she said.  

She now warns that the apparent high teen pregnancy will have a long-term effect on the civil registration administration process. 

“We are currently heightening public awareness campaigns for people to deliver from hospitals as we put in place post-Covid-19 strategies for expectant mothers,” Ms Mucheru said.

If the home deliveries trend continues, Mucheru warns, CRS offices would be overwhelmed with applications for registration when schools reopen and things return to normalcy.

She also opines that adult registration is not only cumbersome, but expensive as it involves a longer process of investigating to authenticate details furnished by the parents.

During the period between March and July, the country recorded a 15 per cent drop in registered deaths, giving an implication that a number of Kenyans could be dying from their homes and immediately buried.

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