The economic burden of maternal mortality on households: evidence from three sub-counties in rural western Kenya
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The economic burden of maternal mortality on households: evidence from three sub-counties in rural western Kenya

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  • Alternative Title:
    Reprod Health
  • Description:

    This study explores the consequences of a maternal death to households in rural Western Kenya focusing particularly on the immediate financial and economic impacts.


    Between September 2011 and March 2013 all households in the study area with a maternal death were surveyed. Data were collected on the demographic characteristics of the deceased woman; household socio-economic status; a history of the pregnancy and health care access and utilization; and disruption to household functioning due to the maternal death. These data were supplemented by in-depth and focus group discussions.


    The health service utilization costs associated with maternal deaths were significantly higher, due to more frequent service utilization as well as due to the higher cost of each visit suggesting more involved treatments and interventions were sought with these women. The already high costs incurred by cases during pregnancy were further increased during delivery and postpartum mainly a result of higher facility-based fees and expenses. Households who experienced a maternal death spent about one-third of their annual per capita consumption expenditure on healthcare access and use as opposed to at most 12% among households who had a health pregnancy and delivery. Funeral costs were often higher than the healthcare costs and altogether forced households to dis-save, liquidate assets and borrow money. What is more, the surviving members of the households had significant redistribution of labor and responsibilities to make up for the lost contributions of the deceased women.


    Kenya is in the process of instituting free maternity services in all public facilities. Effectively implemented, this policy can lift a major economic burden experienced by a very large number of household who seek maternal health services which can be catastrophic in complicated cases that result in maternal death. There needs to be further emphasis on insurance schemes that can support households through catastrophic health spending.

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