We discovered that use of MCH services was high (89.7%) among Eastleigh residents. Women actively sought care at numerous facilities, predominantly in the private sector. ANC coverage for non-Kenyans was slightly higher than the coverage for the Kenya nationals (7). Interestingly, while Kenya-born mothers preferred the government facilities, mothers living in households whose caretaker was born in Somalia chose private facilities. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain why migrant communities tend to avoid government-run facilities, including immigration status, stigma, and language barriers. In one study women reported a lack of trust in the available services due to health care worker attitude and service quality at these government facilities (16). It is important to highlight that this area is predominantly served by private health care providers. There was only one government hospital in the study site, and study participants, when asked about the facility where they sought care, gave the names of more than 30 private facilities in that small area. There is evidence that private facilities thrive in areas with few government regulations and are motivated by price competition. Generally the laws and agencies regulating Kenya’s private health care sector are viewed to be inadequate (17). These facilities charge considerably higher fees than the government facilities. Previous studies in Kenya have also shown that many people working at such facilities lack training and may therefore incorrectly prescribe and dispense drugs (18). Such errors could mistreat life-threatening illnesses and contribute to the development of drug resistance.
A large Kenyan-Somali community lives in the former North Eastern Province of Kenya, bordering Somalia. Considering that more of the people we surveyed were Somalis, one might expect to see health-seeking behaviors that are similar to the Kenyan-Somali community of North Eastern Province. Use of maternal and child health services was higher in our survey participants compared to both the Kenyan ethnic Somali community and also the other non-Somali Kenyan nationals. There were higher rates of antenatal care use, hospital delivery, and postnatal care. Similarly, the rate of caesarean section was higher in the participants in our survey than the national rate of 6% (7).
Our study had two interesting findings that were not consistent with expectations; the finding that migrant mothers had better health seeking behaviour compared to the Kenyan born mothers and the finding that lower/religious education was associated with receiving ANC earlier in pregnancy. As much as we might not have exact explanation for these two findings, we think that the household wealth which we could not assess directly might be the main contributing factor to these both situations. Anecdotally, we were told that the migrant mothers receive remittances and are generally accepted to be in a better position economically than the local mothers. The Kenyan mothers are hustling to make ends meet hence they skip or delay health seeking while Somalia born mothers who might have not had an opportunity to attend the formal education provided in Kenya but had a religious education and also had the financial capability to pay for the widely used private facilities in this area compared with local mothers who have some level of formal education but are struggling economically to attend the private ANC clinics. We have described in other parts of the paper that the mostly utilized health facilities are the private facilities and that the majority of our respondents were foreign born mothers. Further studies will need to carried out to conclusively ascertain the actual reason for these two specific findings.
This study has some limitations. Eastleigh was in the media on several occasions during the survey period because of allegations of money laundering and piracy, and there were several arrests. This environment fostered suspicion in the community toward anyone asking about money, nationality, immigration status, or other personal questions. Therefore, our study did not ask about income or refugee status. While we assume that many of the participants were urban refugees based on demographic data, we could not verify their status.
Data collected were based on the mothers’ recall of events, including gestation dates and services received during the pregnancy, which might bias the results. However, we limited the questions on the most recent pregnancy to not longer than 12 months prior to the interview.
The findings from this study indicate a high ANC utilization rate; however, fewer mothers (25.4%) are starting their ANC within the first trimester as recommended by WHO. Also, this study has shown that migrant women, mothers born outside Kenya, have better health-seeking behaviors compared to their Kenya-born counterparts; however, they mostly seek these services at private, for-profit facilities with varying quality of care.
The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.