A thousand babies delivered successfully at refugee settlement’s health clinic

Refugees and local communities alike benefit from free healthcare at a hospital in Kenya’s Kalobeyei settlement.

The delivery of baby Irakozi marks the thousandth successful delivery at the state-of-the-art maternity wing of Kalobeyei health clinic in northeastern Kenya this year. ©UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

Visibly exhausted, Manirakiza cannot hide her tears of joy as she gazes lovingly at her new-born daughter’s angelic face. Baby Irakoze’s tiny fingers curl around her mother’s white shirt as she tries to make sense of her new surroundings.

“I was in bed when I went into labour. My husband called for an ambulance which rushed me here,”says the 25-year-old Burundian refugee who, with the help of the hospital’s skilled midwives, delivered a healthy baby girl.

The delivery of baby Irakoze marks the thousandth successful delivery at the state-of-the-art maternity wing of Kalobeyei health clinic in northeastern Kenya this year. The 33-bed capacity facility runs on a clean solar energy system funded by the European Union and is equipped with a new born unit with three incubators that can admit pre-term babies, and underweight babies upto 28 days old.

UNHCR Kakuma Head of Sub Office, Ignazio Matteini congratulates mother and child at the state of the art Kalobeyei health clinic that has so far delivered 2000 babies since inception in 2018. ©UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

Refugees and the local community alike have 24-hour access to the facility, where 2,000 babies have been born since it started operations in 2018.

“This maternity unit has been a welcome relief for both refugees and their hosts,” says Christine Simiyu, a Sexual and Reproductive Health Coordinator for the Kenya Red Cross Society – the health partner of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Kalobeyei.

Christine adds that the facility receives an average of five admissions and delivers three babies per day.

“Before, most of the women and newborns, especially from the host community, did not have access to these services. Mothers would often deliver at home in the hands of unskilled birth attendants and health care providers,” she explains. “This often exposed new borns to the potentioa risk of disability and even death.”

The delivery of baby Irakoze marks the thousandth successful delivery at the state-of-the-art maternity wing

About 10 per cent of the women accessing the facility are from the surrounding Turkana host community. The clinic also includes an outpatient unit, a Gender Based Violence (GBV) centre and a HIV/AIDS outpatient clinic.

After delivery, mothers and babies are kept under medical observation for at least 48 hours to ensure their good health.

Refugee and Kenyan community health workers/voluntees, most of whom were previously unskilled midwives, help to identify and follow up on expectant women in the community to ensure they receive critical care at the facility. Currently, 95 per cent of deliveries in the settlement and the adjacent Kakuma camp occur in a health facility.

“Kalobeyei health centre is significantly contributing towards SDG 3 by providing services that reduce both maternal and neonatal mortality while ensuring access in dignity to reproductive health services,” says Dr. Jesse Muriithi, a Public Health Officer at UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“This, coupled with ongoing efforts to have facility registered and accredited by the National Hospital insurance Fund (NHIF), will ensure that these services continue to be provided in sustainable manner.” Dr. Muriithi adds.


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Manirakiza, a refugee from Burundi and her daughter, Irakozi born at the Kalobeyei health clinic. Irakoze makes history as the 1000 child to be born at the facility in 2019 ©UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

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Kenya Red Cross Society, the health partner staff join UNHCR Kakuma Head of Sub Office, Ignazio Matteini in congratulating Irakozi's mother ©UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

Access to shared services by refugees and communities hosting them, such as health care, are some of the examples of solidarity and responsibility-sharing that were show-cased at the high-level Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in this week.

The Global Refugee Forum brought together governments, international organizations, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, host community members and refugees themselves to discuss the best policies to protect refugees, and help them and their hosts to thrive and find lasting solutions.

For Manirakiza and her baby Irakoze, this is a unique opportunity for a healthy and bright future.

“God knows the future of my daughter but I wish for her to be a doctor like the doctors in this clinic,” says Manirakiza with a contagiously happy smile.