It was only 2 months ago that I began working in child-centered international development. One story had an immediate and profound impact on me. It was that of Amane, a 25-year-old woman in Ethiopia that was desperate to be a mother. Six times, she carried a baby to full term. And, six times she lost a baby during labour in a small, dark mud hut, with only her mother and a traditional birth attendant to assist.
Recently, she gave birth to a healthy 5.5 pound baby girl, named Ayantu.
Ayantu is one of 9,700 babies that have been safely delivered thanks to a three-year initiative called Project IMPACT (Improving Maternal and Child Health: Partnership and Action for Community Transformation). Led by Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada, the project is reaching out to more than 120,000 mothers and children in Ethiopia at a high risk of maternal and neonatal mortality.
To help save the lives of mothers and infants, CCFC is educating community members on proper nutrition, the prevention and treatment of diseases, and training health workers and traditional birth attendants to stop unsafe home deliveries and promote births attended by health professionals in health facilities. Amane’s seventh baby was delivered after one of 200 trained traditional birth attendants in her district encouraged Amane to deliver at a health centre.
To date, stakeholders have acknowledged the significant contribution that trainings for traditional birth attendants have had on the increase in institutional delivery and health seeking behaviours by mothers. One recent evaluation conducted in the regions where CCFC works showed that the number of mothers whose delivery was attended in a health centre by a trained health professional rose by about 33% (from 9.3% to 42.9%) since the start of the program in 2011.
Project IMPACT is also supporting the Ethiopian government’s efforts to strengthen primary health care by building and equipping birthing facilities and training health professionals on maternal and newborn care. So far, CCFC has distributed medical equipment to 14 health centres and 59 health posts in greatest need.
To increase community awareness and understanding about health education issues, nutrition and neonatal and maternal care, CCFC is leading Community Conversation sessions. In the Hidi village of Adaa district, 28-year-old mother Tsehay shared: “It is during the Community Conversations I further learnt about the importance of getting antenatal care, and giving birth in health facilities where you can be helped by health professionals. The teachings were very important in helping me decide to give birth at the health centre.”
CCFC is committed to continue supporting and looking for innovative opportunities that will address the challenges in the maternal, newborn and child health sector, particularly the gaps in the health system, the prevalence of killer diseases and malnutrition. Phase II of Project IMPACT will build on the successes so far, and scale up activities with a focus on strengthening referral systems, engaging effectively at the community level, integrating sectoral initiatives in the regions, and encouraging continued local ownership, participation and accountability.
November 6, 2014
Daniela Tudela, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada
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