Prenatal Care, Preventing Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission, and Helping Babies Breathe

According to the World Health Organization, 43% of births in Kenya are delivered in a health facility, while 57% of births take place at home[1]. Despite the Kenyan’s government efforts to promote the importance of prenatal care and to provide universal access to antiretroviral drugs for women who are HIV positive, mother-to-child transmission of HIV remains a major problem with an estimated 45,000 children becoming infected every year[2]. In Homabay, where Project Humanity works, the HIV rate is in excess of 25%[3], which makes the problem of mother-to-child transmission even more acute.

Our Purple Slip Campaign (PSC) is intended to help address this problem. The premise of the campaign is pretty simple: expectant mothers are encouraged to visit their local hospital or clinic, commit to making three subsequent visits during their pregnancy for regular check-ups and testing, and then deliver their baby in the facility. After the delivery of the baby they are given a Purple Slip pack containing a number of baby items. Since 2013, over 600 women and their children have benefited from the Purple Slip Campaign.

In 2014 the PSC expanded to include Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) and Essential Care for Every Newborn training for the staff and midwives at the three healthcare facilities Project Humanity has a relationship with. These include the Tom Mboya Hospital and Kswanga clinic on Rusinga, and the Sena clinic on Mfangano Island. HBB teaches neonatal resuscitation techniques in resource-limited areas. HBB is an initiative of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Saving Newborn Lives, the National Institute of Child Health and Development, and a number of other global health organizations.

Background: Our work in this area came about as a result of Kay McInnes, RNC, and her first experience as a Project Humanity volunteer on Rusinga in early 2013. One of the mothers had delivered a baby and when Kay went to weigh the baby she discovered the newborn was wrapped in the mom’s purple slip. It was sad and beautiful all in one. We live in a country that celebrates the upcoming birth of a baby by throwing a shower for the mom-to-be and providing her with all kind of items, some that aren’t not even necessary. This woman did the best she could with the only resource she had – her slip.

Within days of returning to the U.S. Kay came up with a plan for easy-to-put-together, deliver, and carry packs that help new moms to take good care of themselves and their babies. Every prenatal care pack includes newborn clothing, socks, a hat, baby blankets, cloth diapers, feminine pads and prenatal vitamins and are contained in a small backpack. Inspired by a mom’s purple slip, all the items are packed into a royal purple bag and the Purple Slip Campaign was born!

In 2016, and in partnership with the Mbita/Mfangano and Washington D.C. Rotary Clubs, Project Humanity received grant funds to expand the program to benefit another 100 women on Rusinga and Mfangano islands.

You can get involved in the Purple Slip Campaign by joining a trip, giving the gift of a prenatal care pack, or helping to spread the word.