Feature Story

First Lady of Kenya runs half marathon to end new HIV infections among children and improve the lives of mothers

11 March 2014

The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, participated on 9 March in the First Lady’s half marathon to raise awareness and resources for the ‘Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to stop new HIV infections among children and improve the lives of mothers.

More than 30 000 participants including cabinet secretaries, members of the parliament, governors and their spouses, professional athletes, diplomatic corps and United Nations representatives took part in the 21-kilometre run in Nairobi, Kenya.

The First Lady congratulated the participants for their commitment to ending new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive. “Today we ran to make sure we have an HIV-free generation in this country,” said Ms Kenyatta.

The funds raised during the half marathon will be used to scale up maternal and child health services, including purchasing of mobile clinics for the 47 counties throughout Kenya.

Receiving the First Lady at the finish line was the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who stressed the government’s full support for the initiative. “We want to ensure that we bring about a complete end to maternal deaths and to infant mortality as a result of children and mothers being unable to access proper care,” said President Kenyatta.

Since its launch in January 2014, the First Lady’s ‘Beyond Zero campaign and its Foundation have raised more than US$ 1 million during several events. For example, ahead of the marathon, the First Lady hosted a fund-raising breakfast at the statehouse with approximately 20 private sector companies where she unveiled the first of the 47 mobile clinics. On 13 April, the First Lady will participate in the London Marathon to raise visibility at a global level and mobilise additional resources for the campaign.

According to the 2013 estimates and projections from the government of Kenya, an estimated 9 400 babies were born with HIV in the country in 2013. HIV-related complications accounted for 15% of all deaths among children under the age of 5 in the same year.

James Macharia, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health, said that it was unacceptable that 15 mothers and 270 children below 5 years die every day in Kenya largely from preventable causes. He congratulated the ‘Beyond Zero’ campaign and Foundation for making meaningful contributions in advancing maternal and child health in the country.