GE targets social entrepreneurs to tame child, maternal mortality
A recent report released by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta revealed that maternal deaths account for more than 14 per cent of all deaths of women in the country in the reproductive ages of between 15-19 years. Owing to this, experts have called for more investment in the provision of maternal and infant healthcare.
Based on this, American multinational conglomerate corporation General Electric (GE) has sought to bridge the gap between social entrepreneurs in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa and investors in the health sectors in a bid to drastically reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in the region.
GE has shortlisted 17 social entrepreneurs from Sub-Saharan region, 7 being from Kenya, who are being trained on how to pitch their innovations or initiatives to potential investors in the health sector to fund their ideas to move them away from reliance on donor-funding.
According to Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa, the company headquartered in Fairfield- Connecticut, says the initiative targets to solve African health sector challenges through innovative ventures by the entrepreneurs selected from Kenya, Burundi, DRC Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia
Ireland says the 17 social entrepreneurs selected from 150 applicants will be trained by mentors for the next 6 months on how to attract financing for their sustainable initiatives from foreign investors through the The Healthymagination Mother and Child Programme.
“We felt it would be good to partner and help them with our healthcare experience and capabilities to improve availability and accessibility to maternal and infant health,” says the GE Africa President.
“There are people here who are solving issues in a lot of different ways through innovative ways. There’s a lot of potential, there’s an entrepreneurial thought process and culture here,” he opines.
Robert Wells, the Executive Director for Strategy at Healthymagination, the organization conducting the training in collaboration with Santa Clara University’s Miller Center, says the GE program is focusing on changes in healthcare and the impact they have to drive innovations in health.
“The challenge of mother and child health is still profound particularly in the emerging countries, there are far too many maternal deaths…. far too many children don’t survive to the age of 5.”
Wells says in selecting the social entrepreneurs, Miller Center considered how solid their business case was, how scalable they can be over time, their experience, how they will raise the initial capital and their general skill set.
Among the 7 Kenyans selected to the program include Dr Steve Adudans, the Executive Director of Hewa Tele, an organization that has found a way of producing oxygen at a cheaper and more effectively way to help reduce infant and maternal deaths in hospitals in Siaya County. Another is Dr Daphne Ngunjiri who runs a clinic at Mukuru Kayaba slums here in Nairobi offering affordable maternal and infant health services.
According to The Kenya Countdown to 2015 Country Case Study: Understanding the Past to Impact the Future in Ending Preventable Maternal, Newborn and Child Deaths report, Kenya missed the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) requiring countries to cut maternal mortality rates by three-quarters by 2015.
A child in sub Saharan Africa is more than 14 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed countries, with the leading cause being pre-term complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria, with the child’s risk of dying highest in the first 28 days after birth. 45% of child deaths occur under the age of 5 especially during the neonatal period, due to unsafe child birth and ineffective neonatal care.