When Jacinta Malemba, a clinical officer in charge of Ndilidau Dispensary in Taita Taveta County was executing her duties sometime last year, the night sky had almost no illumination.
An expectant woman was wheeled into the maternity room escorted by her husband. As the mother tried to push the baby out, the power went out. Panic was written all over the faces of those in the room. With no back-up source of power, Jacinta and her colleagues used a torch to light up the room. Luckily, the baby was successfully delivered, but the struggle with the dim light was something she always remembers.
Now, the situation is better, thanks to solar technology. “It is like a dream come true,” says Jacinta. “This facility serves 12 villages with over 8, 000 people. We have been struggling with the unsteady electricity for a while. Even though we have not lost anyone, we have been risking.”
The power outages were so frequent that every time night fell, Jacinta and her colleagues hoped that either Kenya Power would spare them, or no patient would come just after power went out. Sometimes, their prayers were answered, but mostly they were disappointed, threatening quality service. The blackouts would last even more than five hours. “This hospital has had a number of miracle babies. Anytime they are born during the unsettling conditions, we call it a miracle,” she says.
The maternity wing of the dispensary can host 13 mothers if all beds are full. In a community that is still learning to embrace maternal care and child delivery in hospitals, the challenges brought by power outages kept some of the women away from the hospital.
“Before a mother even gives birth, they have to come for antenatal visits. When some of them came and required services such as photocopying of their documents, sending them elsewhere was such a put off. Most of them did not come back,” explains Jacinta.
The more pregnant women the hospital lost by sending them away, the less cash it received from the Linda Mama free maternity programme.
“We cannot claim any money from Linda Mama if we do not have evidence that a woman was at the hospital. The money goes a long way in helping us run some of the activities at the hospital,” Jacinta explains.
Despite the regular power interruptions, the …….