Updates from the Field

Mothers' Shelters Helping to Save Lives

New and improved residences near health facilities are making it easier for women in rural Zambia to receive quality maternity care in a timely manner.

Many Zambian women live in remote, rural areas often hours or even days away from the nearest health facility. Great distances and transportation challenges limit their ability to receive the care they need, when they need it most: in the later stages of pregnancy, during childbirth, and during the immediate postpartum period.

In Zambia, women in the late stages of pregnancy have traditionally gone to stay in mothers' shelters – residences near or next to the health facilities where they plan to deliver – to overcome distance barriers to care. However, there are limited quality shelters. Existing shelters are generally in poor condition, offer weak services and are unsustainable.

Scaling up of Saving Mothers, Giving Life activities

Building on the successful SMGL activities around maternal and newborn care and recognizing the need to encourage more comprehensive care along the continuum of life, the Zambian Ministry of Health is expanding reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent, nutrition and family planning services in 10 provinces. USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID) are working with the Zambian Government in 6 of the 10 provinces, and the World Bank and the European Union are providing support for the remaining 4 provinces.

UBT Integrated into EmONC Curriculum in Zambia

The Uterine Balloon Tamponade (UBT) has been successfully integrated into the Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) curriculum in Zambia as per a Ministry of Health directive. Our implementing partner, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), conducted an educational workshop to build capacity to successfully utilize the UBT.

Construction of Maternity Waiting Homes Continues

The U.S. Department of Defense completed construction of 10 maternity waiting homes or shelters and has awarded a bid for the next nine construction projects. Lafarge generously donated cement for the new waiting shelters, and the U.S. Government has already received significant interest from private companies to help build additional maternal waiting shelters. Merck is currently evaluating the impact of the maternity waiting homes to help inform future construction.

New Peace Corps Volunteers Join SMGL Team

Five new Peace Corps Volunteers arrived at their SMGL sites this past October.

Communications Campaigns are Leading More Ugandan Women to Deliver in Safe Health Facilities

In Uganda, nearly half of all women deliver at home, where they are far from treatment and are at increased risk of death in the event of pregnancy-related complications. Delivering at home is considered a significant contributing factor to maternal deaths in Uganda, which has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

A new radio campaign, created by the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG), supported by USAID as part of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life Initiative, is designed to address the barriers that prevent women from delivering in health facilities. The messages also encourage men to play a more active role in preparing for childbirth.

Safe Motherhood Calls Man to Action

Carrie Vogelsang, Peace Corps Response — Saving Mothers, Giving Life Lundazi, Zambia 10/4/2012

“My women are over there, let me show you.” Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG) member, Edson Zulu, smiles proudly as he walks us to where a group of pregnant women are sitting on the ground. The women are gathered outside Chikomeni Rural Health Center in the rural district of Lundazi, Zambia. Edson is a member of a Safe Motherhood Action Group, and was trained by the Zambia Integrated Systems Strengthening Program (ZISSP). ZISSP is funded by USAID as part of Saving Mothers, Giving Life.

Since being trained in March 2012, the 20 members of SMAG group Chikomeni have been actively working in their surrounding villages for 6 months. The training they've put into practice has made a significant impact on the number of pregnant women seeking care and also choosing to deliver at the facility.

Going the Distance

Carrie Vogelsang, Peace Corps Response — Saving Mothers, Giving Life Lundazi, Zambia 10/4/2012

“I was going to lose the patient, so it served the purpose of why it was sent here.” Amon Mwale, driver for Lundazi District Health, reflected on his decision to tell the hospital to change his vehicle to the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) ambulance. Instead, he could have been using the older, run-down vehicle typically assigned to the valley region in the most remote areas of the district. The ambulance was funded through a cooperative agreement between MOH/ Provincial Medical Office (Eastern Province) and the CDC as part of the SMGL Initiative.

The driver, Amon, received word in the morning at the district hospital that a woman was experiencing obstructed labor and needed to be picked up and transported back to the hospital. The over 300km (186 miles) round trip meant traveling on bad roads, which were often dried up river beds, and passing through the national park where elephants, lions and other animals roam.

Mary's Story

“We need to move and now. We should not lose any time,” instructed the mentor midwife to her team of a driver and a Community Linkage Officer (CLO).

The team was on its way to rescue Mary, a mother of seven, now in labor with her eighth child. Mary had previously given birth to some of her children with the aid of family members and a local birth attendant. Although the local birth attendant tried to convince Mary to go to a health facility this time, Mary remained confident that she would give birth at home as she had done before.

When the local birth attendant realized that the case was complicated, she sent Mary away. Mary then contacted the Village Health Team (VHT) member, Joseph, to express her concerns. Joseph sent a text message to the CLO, Lonard, who acts as a liaison between the community and the local health officers. Recognizing Joseph's phone number, Lonard returned the call immediately.