Pumwani Maternity hospital is the birthplace of Nairobi. With 354 beds and 150 baby cots; 60-80 deliveries everyday with 10-15 of these being caesarean section deliveries. The nursery (new born unit) admits 17-20 babies everyday and is the biggest and busiest in East and Central Africa. Pumwani mainly serves all of Nairobi (Eastlands areas mainly, up to Kangundo and Ruiru).
Pumwani Maternity Hospital is a Nairobi County hospital and the hospital and health workers are Nairobi County employees.
When the county workers issued and fulfilled a 7-day strike notice in September 2013, the hospital was closed.
Because of the strike, pregnant mothers coming to the hospital to deliver were turned away and had to find their own way to surrounding public hospitals.
Only one media outlet, The Star newspaper carried the story on the hospital’s closure on the morning before the BabyRescue campaign was launched.
BabyRescue was initiated on the 10th of September 2013 by Dr. Wambui Waithaka, Alice Odera and Wambui Wamae Kamiru and kept running by Kenyans of goodwill. It was supported by Safaricom Ltd. and Kenya Red Cross Eplus.
The BabyRescue campaign’s aims were:
- To provide a temporary solution by providing transportation to transport mothers in labour safely from the closed Pumwani hospital gate to other operational hospitals (namely Kenyatta National Hospital, Mbagathi Hospital and Mama Lucy Hospital).
- To raise awareness on the closure of the Pumwani Hospital, in order for mothers to make alternative arrangements to seek treatment in other facilities based on that information.
The BabyRescue campaign was about ensuring that mothers in labour who go to Pumwani Maternity to seek medical attention are provided with safe and fast transit to hospitals that are operational.
Stationed outside the hospital on standby was a Kenya Red Cross Eplus ambulance. This ambulance was in place to transfer women from the Pumwani Hospital to surrounding hospitals.
The Kenya Red Cross Eplus ambulance supported the single Pumwani Maternity ambulance which was scantily staffed and stretched due to the strike. The KRC Eplus ambulatory service was provided at no charge to any woman in need.
The charge was covered by citizens of good will through the BabyRescue Campaign.
Kenya Red Cross waived all charges for the paramedics and only charged for the ambulance fees at a rate of Ksh. 30,000 per day.
The ambulance was just a stop gap temporary measure and was in the right place and at the right time for mothers in medical emergencies.
To pay for the costs of the ambulance, we set up a Safaricom MPESA Pay bill account.
Pay bill Business no. 939310, Account no. B
Safaricom zero-rated this Pay bill No. so that all the donations we receive from you go directly to #BabyRescue
We then pushed for crowd funding through traditional and social media using #BabyRescue as the hashtag.
Kenya Red Cross (KRC) Involvement in BabyRescue
On Tuesday 10th September 2013, the KRC began the Eplus Ambulance standby outside Pumwani hospital. Over the three days that followed KRC Eplus rescued four women and their babies. The women were between the ages of 21 and 28; (21, 22, 23 and 28) One of the women had previously had children through C-section and would likely have been a candidate for this procedure this time around. Two of the women were past their delivery dates and the other two were in various stages of labour.
The women were transferred during high traffic periods of the day, three to Mama Lucy Hospital (Kayole) and one to Kenyatta National Hospital.
KRC Eplus provided the ambulances at a discounted rate of Ksh.30,000 (discounted by 16%), waiving the cost of paying for the four emergency personnel on board the ambulance who worked in shifts for the duration of the campaign.
The total cost of maintaining the ambulance on standby came to Ksh. 90,000 for the three days (72 hours).
Dr. Abbas Gullet, MBS Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross had the following to say about the ambulances and emergency team:
We remain committed to provide professional emergency care to exclusively evacuate stranded expectant mothers.
Our Advanced Cardiac life support Ambulances are well-equipped and will ensure that trained Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) attend to the mothers in labour, administer intravenous fluids (IV fluids), oxygen when necessary, deliver those that have precipitate labour (emergency delivery).
Our medics are trained in handling labour complications and each ambulance is equipped with emergency delivery kits and the relevant maternity medication for pregnant women besides the instruments to monitor the foetal heart rate.
Safaricom Ltd. Involvement in BabyRescue
Safaricom Ltd. Set up a zero-rated Paybill number on Tuesday, 10th September 2013. This enabled the public to come to the rescue of the women through crowd funding. The Paybill number was pushed through various media, traditional and social (Facebook and Twitter).
The three initiators of the BabyRescue Campaign at the beginning committed a total of Ksh. 40,000 (roughly the cost of one day of ambulance standby). This figure significantly dropped through the goodwill of citizens who contributed to BabyRescue through the Paybill.
In total, through active campaign, BabyRescue raised Ksh. 79, 043. The three initiators contributed Ksh. 10, 957 to bring the total to Ksh. 90,000 which settled the bill accrued by keeping the ambulance on stand-by.
Over 180 people contributed through the Paybill with the lowest amount being Ksh. 1 and the highest being Ksh. 3,000.
By zero-rating the Paybill, it meant that all contributions, every single shilling went to the campaign and kept the ambulance on standby.
Media Awareness and BabyRescue
Before the campaign began, the story of Pumwani’s closure had only been carried in the Nairobi Star.
The campaign initiators mobilized media around the closure and possible crisis, involving the engaging media houses within the first six hours of the campaign:
- Standard Group (KTN)
- Radio Africa (Kiss FM)
- Royal Media Group (Hot96, Citizen News)
The #BabyRescue campaign was launched on media on Hot96 (Royal Media Services) during the Drive-Time Show on the 10th of September 2013.
Within 12 hours, all the major news outlets were covering the story. This dramatically reduced the number of women who came to the closed Pumwani Hospital to seek medical attention. In that time, the campaign was actively being pushed through:
- Capital FM
- Radio Africa (Kiss FM)
- Nation Media Group
Prior to focusing media attention on Pumwani, several women had been turned away from the closed hospital.
While traditional media became the primary form of communication on the closure of the hospital and the need to fundraise for BabyRescue, social media, acted as a secondary rallying point.
Through the #BabyRescue, the campaign trended at number three on the first day of activation against #ICCTrial and other related topics.
The BabyRescue campaign was initiated by three women, Wambui Waithaka, Alice Odera and Wambui Kamiru.
In the three days that the campaign was active, it was evident that it is within the power of the people to make a change. It was Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) who directed the conversation on raising money for the campaign and together with the media, kept the focus on what was important.
The safety of mothers to-be and the health of the babies were central and paramount to the campaign and together we challenged the situation.