First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Tuesday January 26, officially launched the 3rd Edition of the First Lady’s Half Marathon slated for March 6.
Margaret Kenyatta launched the 2016 event during a breakfast meeting which she hosted at State House, Nairobi.
During the launch, Mrs Kenyatta assured Kenyans of her commitment to the Beyond Zero Campaign, which is supported by the funds raised in the marathon. The main goal of the campaign is to improve healthcare access across the country, especially the underserved regions.
She took the opportunity to also register as the marathon’s first participant and urged Kenyans to register for the event in large numbers. The marathon which is in three-race categories: 21 Km, 10Km or 5 km races will be flagged off at Nyayo stadium.
Addressing key stakeholders of the Beyond Zero campaign including Diplomats, Government Departments, the Corporates, the Media, UN agencies, civil society among others, she appreciated the unique partnerships forged in support of the initiative. She called for broader collaboration and funding for this year.
Despite the milestones achieved by the campaign since its launch January, 2014, the First Lady noted that maternal and child deaths are still high.
“Our focus, must be to pull together innovative ideas and approaches; introduce smarter, scalable and sustainable models, to address the deplorable high numbers of maternal and child deaths in this country”, she said.
“Kenya continues to rank in the top-ten African countries, where maternal health and child mortality lags. Kenya, is perceived as one of the most dangerous countries for a woman to be pregnant, and give birth”, The First Lady said it is unacceptable for over 5,500 women to die annually as a result of pregnancy and related complications.
She noted with sadness that one out of 26 Kenyan children die before reaching the age of one year while one out of 19 children die before celebrating their fifth birthday according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey.
“The campaign (Beyond Zero) remains a high priority initiative today as it was two years ago”, she said.
So far, 36 out of 47 counties have benefited from the fully kitted mobile clinics with significant impact on maternal and child health at the grassroots, immunization programs and reduction of HIV/Aids infections. The first lady noted that Beyond Zero campaign has raised Sh 540 million besides receiving donations in kind of medical equipment and kits.
Co-operative Bank of Kenya, through its Chief Executive Officer Dr Gedion Muriuki pledged a Sh 15 million donation towards the Beyond Zero Campaign.
Commenting on the progress of the initiative, Principal Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Muraguri said that Beyond Zero has catalyzed action and inspired change for the better among Kenyans.
This year, the marathon is targeting to attract 70,000 men and women to take part in the event, up from 50,000 participants in the past year.
The marathons are aimed at creating awareness and mobilizing resources to fund Beyond Zero activities especially the acquisition of mobile clinics that the initiative has been distributing to the devolved units. The Marathon is an initiative of the First Lady that takes place at the beginning of every March.
To the admiration of many, the First Lady took part and completed the London Half Marathon in 2014. Additionally, she joins participants in the annual half marathon event.
To keep fit, she engages in rigorous training session in Nairobi and other parts of the country and sometimes out of the country. Last year, she took her training sessions to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Tokyo, Japan.