Philips partners with Kenya to launch free maternity medical center
Githurai Lang’ata Health Center in Kiambu County outside Nairobi By Kate Rankin For the Cairopost

NAIROBI: Maasai women wrapped in traditional red shuka cloth swayed as they sang a traditional song to celebrate the opening of the Community Life Center at the Githurai Lang’ata Health Center in Kiambu County outside Nairobi Friday.

The center, sponsored by Philips and introduced in collaboration with the government of Kiambu County, focuses on maternal and child health care, and is the first of a model the company says it hopes to replicate in Africa. Women that come to the center receive free treatment, from antenatal care to referral to hospitals if they become high-risk.

“By improving access, we can improve family care,” said Maarten van Herpen, the Head of the Philips Innovation Hub in Africa at the inauguration ceremony Friday. The center, he explained, is powered by solar electricity, providing a laundry, as well as indoor and outdoor lighting for those who need to use the facility.

The goal of the center is to identify high-risk pregnancy, he said, adding that Philips and the government hope to increase such centers across Kenya, as well as the African continent.

“Our partnership with Philips comes at a time when the county has a high incidence of infant and maternal mortality resulting from preventable causes and lack of medical facilities,” said William Kabogo, Governor of Kiambu County.

Prior to the opening of the center, women in the community of approximately 46,000 had depended on a clinic in Riuru, 22 kilometers away, for emergency medical care, and would have to travel over poorly paved roads littered with refuse and grazing cows. Part of the negotiation for the facility was the construction of a direct road through the residential area to transport women in labor, said Dr. Bahaa Eddin Sarroukh, an R&D Manager at Philips Africa.

The center depends on a solar power station, which can hold enough charge to power the facility for three days, added Sarroukh.

World Health Organization figures show Kenya had an under age 5 mortality rate of 84 per 1,000 births in 2009, and had a maternal mortality rate of 530 per 100,000 births in 2008.

One of the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 with a deadline of 2015 is to halve maternal and child mortality.

Philips launched two months ago in certain sectors of Africa the VISIQ program, which provides battery-powered  ultrasound machines that connect to tablets; the portable devices are designed for rural clinics and patients, and can be used to identify high-risk pregnancies.

The company has announced its intention to launch VISIQ in Egypt in the final quarter of 2014.

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