Our maternal, newborn and child-health project is helping women and babies thrive
By Gutu Tesso, country director, Ethiopia
Many of us understand how important it is for women and newborns to access skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum. Yet, in my work in Ethiopia, I’ve seen delays in deciding to seek help, in reaching care and in expectant mothers receiving care. These delays are due to an absence of skilled health workers, logistical problems and limited knowledge about maternal and newborn health issues.
So, a big part of our work at Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) has been focusing on reducing maternal and infant mortality in Ethiopia. And, thanks to support from the Government of Canada through the Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality, our supporters are helping make a difference.
We’re building health facilities in deprived, rural communities, delivering specialized training to health officers on basic emergency obstetric and newborn care as well as providing basic medical and non-medical equipment and supplies such as delivery tables, neonatal resuscitation devices, infection-prevention supplies and more.
Our team has also been improving health-seeking behaviour by providing education on: the importance of antenatal checkups, delivering at a health facility and postnatal care for mothers and newborn babies.
Still, too many women are not getting the help they needed during pregnancy and childbirth. One challenge has been local topography and poor road conditions (See photo below) to health centres.
Consider our maternal, newborn and child-health project implementation area in Oromia Administrative Zone of Amhara National Regional state in Ethiopia. The mountainous terrain has ragged foothills and valleys covering more than 65 percent of the land. Moreover, the houses are far apart and distant from health facilities with poor or even no road access.
This is why we’ve been building waiting rooms in health facilities, which can double as temporary shelters for women during their final weeks of pregnancy. Before this was an option, women had to return home after false labour, ultimately leading to risky home deliveries, unattended by health professionals.
The waiting rooms have been helpful, but CCFC’s program assessment also found some mothers prefer to stay home until labour so they can take care of children, cook and keep their homes clean.
It’s why we’ve also established an emergency health-referral system, which includes the use of ambulances and a more comfortable, government-approved version of stretchers the community would traditionally use to take people to health facilities.
We’ve also helped build partnerships between community leaders, youth, local women, health workers and more. The health workers identify women in their third trimester of pregnancy and request an ambulance when labour begins. They also coordinate with youth and neighbours to use the new stretchers to carry patients to the main road (which can be far), where they meet the ambulance that will take the patient to the health centre or nearest hospital.
We continue to improve this health-referral system to ensure lifesaving and timely treatment for pregnant and labouring women, mothers and newborns in need. Anecdotally, through this initiative, the number of deliveries attended by skilled professionals has improved, and the number of deaths during delivery has dropped.
And, I’m glad to hear local government has been inspired to use this model in similarly geographically challenging areas in the Amhara region. It will go a long way to helping women and babies in need.
You can help pregnant and new moms and their babies thrive. Support them through our gift catalogue today.
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The Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality is a partnership among four Canadian organizations — Amref Health Africa, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and WaterAid Canada. With support of $24.9 million from the Government of Canada (85 percent of the total project budget), this four-year project (2016 to 2020) aims to directly reach 1.7-million women, children and men across 20 districts in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. The partners are working together with African communities to improve the delivery of essential health services to moms, pregnant women, newborns and children under the age of five; increase the use of these improved health services; and improve the consumption of nutritious foods and supplements.
About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:
Christian Children’s Fund of Canada works globally to support children and youth who dream of a better world. For nearly 60 years, we’ve brought together diverse people and partnerships, driven by a common belief: education extends beyond the walls of a classroom and is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world. We focus on breaking barriers preventing access to inclusive, quality education for all, especially girls.