Healthy childhoods and making milestones – Maria Kidney reflects

Maria Kidney (Co-founder and Director) and Martin Ballantyne (CEO) have made the difficult decision to remain in Kenya this Christmas. There are too many reasons as to why they simply cannot leave.

COVID-19 has brought about many challenges and in some areas years of progress are in danger of being reversed.

Maria reflects…

“I was born in Cork 50 years ago this month, in a well-equipped hospital; my mother had attended her check-ups throughout the pregnancy. It was a difficult birth as my mother had complications but she was given the care she needed to survive. She was looked after in hospital and was supported through the local doctor to go for post-birth check-ups and to take me for vaccinations.

Anytime I was unwell I was brought to the doctor by my Mam.

I went to school when I was four years old a healthy girl, thankfully.

I went to primary school, secondary school and university – all supported by my parents.

I was privileged to be born where I was born.

I was privileged that our health system in Ireland ensured my Mam was looked after and I had everything I needed to survive not only my birth but to thrive and see my fifth birthday.

Is it right that this privilege is due to where I was born? I don’t believe it is.

If I was born in Kenya 50 years ago, I most likely would have been born at home in the village. My Mam may or may not have survived given the complications she had when I was born. She may or may not have known about the benefit of immunisation and there is also no guarantee that I would have gone to school when I was four. In fact, 50 years ago in Kenya not many girls went to school… and so my life would have been very different…

Both Ireland and Kenya have grown over the last 50 years, but the pace of progress is different. Inequality and poverty have prevented a girl born in Kenya today attending school – some do, some don’t; many mothers do not access ante natal care or deliver in health facilities and where we are based not all children survive to see their fifth birthday. In Ireland girls have equal access to education to boys and technology is available to all. The Irish health system is strong with access to deliveries, ante natal care and immunisation open to all.

This year has been a challenging year across the globe for all of us. For me I have reflected a lot on the differences. The same pandemic has hit each and every country yet the impact is different based on where you live… and this is the difference between life here and life at home.

Here in Kenya we’ve never experienced a year like it – the absolute turmoil, the poverty, the hardship, the sadness, the fear… and we’ve seen inequality first-hand… for some soap is a luxury, running water is a luxury, and social distance is a luxury for most. We’ve seen children remain at home since March working round the clock in the fields. We’ve seen mothers and babies suffer due to poverty and an overwhelmed health system.

We want to support mothers give birth safely, and children to survive and thrive to reach their fifth birthday. They are the next generation… they are the future – and together we can give them the best start in life. Do you know if a child is born in Ireland today there is a 1 in 303 chance that they will not reach their fifth birthday; in Kericho this chance is 1 in 26… and that is our reality.

To celebrate my milestone birthday, myself and Martin will climb Mt Kenya in December to raise funds to support mothers and babies in Kenya. We will take on this mountain to raise awareness of the challenges mothers and babies are facing in Kenya. We will take on this challenge to highlight that not all babies born in Kenya right now will reach their fifth birthday; not all mothers will survive childbirth; not all babies will be born alive.

We invite you to join us as we journey up Mt Kenya; take up the challenge with us and together we will make a difference to thousands of mothers and babies – a positive way to end 2020 and celebrate our collective future together.

All donations are welcome no matter what the size – it all adds up and will make a significant impact to mothers and babies in Kenya. Asante Sana!”

We know this is the time of year when your generosity will be called upon many times but if you would like to support our Christmas campaign and help 1,000 babies reach their fifth birthday in Kericho County, Kenya please donate here.

Your donation really will mean the difference between life and death for babies and their mothers. Our programmes are proven to make an impact – we know they work – COVID-19 means the need is greater than before so every donation counts.

Please donate what you can and #bethedifference to mothers and babies in Kericho county.