Maternal health services take a hit amid global lockdown

Last month, Rael, an expectant mother in Kenya’s central Meru region, went into labor. With the help of a neighbor, she successfully delivered the baby. However, the placenta remained inside her womb.

She called a driver to take her to the hospital that evening, but confusion over who was allowed to travel during Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn coronavirus curfew meant the vehicle did not arrive until the next morning. By the time she reached the hospital, Rael was dead.

She was enrolled in’s Team Mum, a network of support groups for pregnant women in Meru County. Martina Gant, who runs the project, said Rael’s death was the most devastating of the many effects that have befallen group members after Kenya hastily implemented movement restrictions to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Women have been too afraid to move during curfew,” Gant said. “There have been hideous cases of brutality toward people trying to support women with access to skilled care.” Gant now warns of a higher newborn death toll than is common and likely long-term ramifications that have yet to emerge.

With lockdown measures beginning to ease, activists across the global south are finally able to begin gauging the impact of the restrictions on maternal health, even as they move quickly to prevent any long-term damage.