Category Archives: Women and Girls

5 Maternal Health Organizations to Support Now

Every day 800 women die due to largely preventable causes during childbirth. That number is mentioned everywhere maternal health is mentioned and championed, but it always bears repeating. Until the drastic maternal mortality numbers decline the data must remain front and center. Mothers’ lives depend on us knowing the facts.

Over the past few decades maternal health numbers have effectively decreased by 47 percent, but we still have a long way to go especially in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur.

Large, international NGOs and governments have put their influence and resources behind saving more mothers’ lives. But, this is a big world in which we live where there are many women who still do not have access to quality prenatal health care and who must resort to delivering their babies at home which can often be fatal for them and their newborns. Some expecting mothers, especially in the poorest sub-Saharan African countries, do not have any other choice but to deliver at home due to a lack of access to health workers and proximity to a health facility.

There are countless organizations that are working diligently to ease the burden on expecting mothers in low-resource settings and are striving to save more lives. While decreasing the number of maternal deaths may seem like a Sisyphean task in the short term, there are organizations that save mothers’ lives every day! Every life matters even if the data points don’t show significant change quickly enough.

Here are five organizations we think are doing phenomenal maternal health care work and that deserve to be supported especially during this giving season.

  1. The Safe Delivery App is a groundbreaking mobile training tool, which can save mothers and newborns in Africa during pregnancy and childbirth. The app is developed by Maternity Foundation in cooperation with leading scientists from University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark.The app aims to improve the quality of maternal and neonatal care in developing countries by teaching birth attendants in hard-to-reach areas how to manage normal and complicated deliveries through animated clinical instruction films.They are raising $100,000 to scale the app. Donate to their campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-safe-delivery-app-a-life-saving-mobile-app.

  2. Jacaranda Health is a social enterprise and operates as a 501(c)3 in the US.  Their mission is to transform maternal health care in East Africa and make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns. “Jacaranda Health aims to provide respectful, patient-centered, kind and high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth,” says Amie Newman, Jacaranda Health’s Director of Communication and Development.That’s why we love their work! Donate at jacarandahealth.org/our-approach/jacarandas-model/donate.

  3. Every Mother Counts has teamed up with CrowdRise to raise essential funds to save more mothers’ lives in the seven countries, including the United States, where they work on maternal health care and prevention of maternal deaths.
    Every Mother Counts was launched with the intention to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Donate at www.crowdrise.com/EveryMotherCounts-Tower.

  4. Midwives for Haiti: When we hear about mothers who die during childbirth they most likely succumb to hemorrhaging (bleeding to death). This is particularly sad because hemorrhaging, in most cases, is preventable. In low-resource settings, however, hemorrhaging takes the lives of countless women and it doesn’t have to happen. Midwives for Haiti has put together a program that specifically addresses postnatal care. Many women who delivered at Hospital Ste. Therese in Haiti where they work, either received no postnatal care or were sent home four hours after delivery. That is highly unacceptable and deadly.Donate at midwivesforhaiti.org/projectpostnatal.html.

  5. Zero Mothers Die is a global partnership initiative that is equipping pregnant women in developing countries with unique mobile phones to give them access to healthy pregnancy information and healthcare that could be just a phone call away during emergencies. Their aim is to bring mobile technology solutions to pregnant women to empower them with information and enable them to seek care when they need it most.Donate at www.indiegogo.com/projects/zero-mothers-die-mobile-phones-for-pregnant-women.

We know there are countless organizations that are working with mothers to keep them alive before, during, and after childbirth, but we can’t mention them all. Please list other maternal health organizations in the comments.

Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

How Mother’s Loving Support Encourages Breastfeeding in Zambia

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Mutinta Roni Maimbo

Mother’s Loving Support is a non-profit volunteer organisation borne out of the founder’s desire to encourage and support women as they breast feed their babies while continuing to work outside the home.

In Zambia, breastfeeding a child is a socially accepted and encouraged step with the coming of a child, but many women in urban areas slowly transition to formula or other substitutes as the child grows or as they end their maternity leave to go back to work. Typically this happens at three months postpartum, though some women are able to extend their maternity leave in order to spend more time with their babies and nurse them for longer. When the time comes, many difficult decisions are made, one of them being how a mother can continue nursing while she goes to work?

Employment law does not have a specific allowance for nursing mothers, but at the discretion of the employers, mothers can take an hour each day to breastfeed their children, with many women able to go home during lunch hour to nurse. However, others face challenges in taking this time to nurse and this prevents them from providing breast milk for their children, thus transitioning them to substitutes earlier than is recommended. In addition, if women have not had an easy time breastfeeding, they are likely to stop at this stage.

Continue reading How Mother’s Loving Support Encourages Breastfeeding in Zambia

One Mother’s Story Of Giving Birth in a Hospital Instead of At Home

Merida, Philippines – I met Jocelyn Pingos, 27, in Merida, Leyte on a bright, sunny tropical day in the Philippines. A mother of four, Jocelyn sat outside her local health center and waited patiently to have her youngest, Lenith, 10 months, looked at because of a nagging cough. Her second youngest, Jelenia, 3, was also with her. Jocelyn’s other children who are 9 and 6 were attending school.

When Jocelyn delivered Lenith earlier this year, she and her husband decided that she should have a tubal ligation two months after her delivery.

“I have no plans to have any more children,” Jocelyn said.

Lenith

Jocelyn delivered her two youngest, Jelenia and Lenith, at the local hospital. Her two oldest were delivered at home. “For the first two, the midwife came to my home,” Jocelyn remembered. “The midwife wasn’t available for the last two.”

Continue reading One Mother’s Story Of Giving Birth in a Hospital Instead of At Home

How Women Are Rebuilding After Typhoon Haiyan: Elsa Morales

“We are very lucky the storm surge didn’t really touch my town,”said Manuel Boy’ Sia Que, the mayor of Dulag municipality. “We only had one-half to one meter storm surge.”

In Ormoc, a city about an hour and a half from Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities during Typhoon Haiyan is also like another nearby city, Dulag. Ormoc didn’t get the huge storm surge like Tacloban that took thousands of lives, but they did bear the brunt of the torrential winds.

Elsa Morales lost everything during the storm. A single mother, her husband left her in 2005. In 2009 World Vision gave her a pig to provide a livelihood for her and her four children.  She has been raising pigs organically ever since by feeding them natural plants instead of commercial feeds and creating her own fertilizers.

Elsa Morales' Pregnant Sow
Morales’ pregnant sow eats swamp cabbage. It is abundant and organic food for her pigs.

Continue reading How Women Are Rebuilding After Typhoon Haiyan: Elsa Morales

How PSI Reinforces Positive Reproductive Health Messaging Through Branding, Edutainment

In Tanzania, orange has increasingly become the recognized color of family planning and reproductive health services. Population Services International’s orange Familia brand is quite common in most regions of this coastal country of 49 million. PSI, a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world, has consistently and effectively branded everything in its nationwide Familia social franchise network since it began in 2009 with unforgettable orange and its semi-cursive Familia logo that bears a heart at the beginning of its name. All aspects of the Familia social franchise network from its clinics’ signage to the clothing of its health workers to its condom brand that claims in part 80% of Tanzania’s condom market and its health education booklets, all get PSI’s extensive branding treatment. The result: PSI Tanzania was able to serve 119,000 clients in 2013 through Familia via word of mouth and effective marketing.

Familia

Familia is PSI’s social franchise network of over 260 private sector clinics across 23 regions that primarily provides family planning, cervical cancer and maternal health services as well as health services for children under the age of five in urban and peri-urban community settings in Tanzania.  Tanzania’s most remote areas are serviced by PSI outreach teams.

Continue reading How PSI Reinforces Positive Reproductive Health Messaging Through Branding, Edutainment

A Day in the Life of a Family Planning Health Worker

Salasala, Tanzania — It took over an hour in notoriously congested Dar es Salaam traffic and gingerly moving through winding, narrow, dirt roads to visit Blandina Mpacha. Mama Blandina, as her community affectionately calls her, is a PSI health worker who teaches women, men, and whole families about the importance of family planning. This isn’t something new to her. Mama Blandina has been a family planning health worker for over twenty years and has seen the slow-going, but eventual change in attitudes toward spacing births. In a country where women give birth to 5.29 babies on average, Mama Blandina is saving lives and giving women a chance to raise their families instead of living in a perpetual cycle of pregnancy.

Greeting us on her front porch where adult shoes and sandals laid strewn about, Mama Blandina first wanted to show us her chickens. It wasn’t just a few adult hens milling about and pecking around; no, it was a coop full of at least seventy growing chickens being raised for sale, for as much as Mama Blandina is a family planning health worker, she is also an entrepreneur and has been for much of her adult life.  This is yet another sign of Mama Blandina’s resourcefulness, standing, and importance in a relatively poor community on the immediate outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

Blandina Mpacha first learned about being a family planning health worker on the only radio station in Tanzania at the time. Back then, she recalled between sips of coffee, only women who worked in offices used family planning methods. Now, for the most part, the stigma has fallen away.

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Why Secondary Education for Girls Reduces Child Marriage, Early Pregnancies

UNESCO just released its report, Sustainable Development: Post 2015 Begins With Education, that takes a look at the critical importance of education on the post-2015 agenda. The core stance in the report portends that without greater access to education poverty eradication will become increasingly difficult to achieve by 2030. The betterment of women’s and girls’ lives across the globe, most specifically in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia depends greatly on their equal access to quality education.

In the poorest countries, 2.9 million girls are married by 15. If girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia simply have a secondary education child marriage would decrease by 69%. Secondary education also causes a delay in young girls having their first child. Young girls disproportionately die in childbirth. Education will, in turn, cause a reduction in not only maternal health, but also in newborn deaths. In fact, Brazil saw a a 70 percent reduction in its fertility rate because it became a country priority to improve schools and education.

Educated girls have children later and smaller families overall. They are less likely to die during pregnancy or birth, and their offspring are more likely to survive past the age of five and go on to thrive at school and in life. Women who attended school are better equipped to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, deadly diseases, trafficking and sexual exploitation. – Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Graça Machel, President, Foundation for Community Development & Founder, Graça Machel Trust.

 

Continue reading Why Secondary Education for Girls Reduces Child Marriage, Early Pregnancies

Why Getting Women to Deliver in Health Facilities May Be Harder Than We Think

Every day 800 women die from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. That is 292,000 women too many each year. One of the ways in which this statistic can be reduced is by simply encouraging women in low- and middle-income countries to deliver in health facilities with skilled health workers. That sounds simple enough, but it has been challenging. The number of midwives in most sub-Saharan countries, for example, desperately needs to be scaled up and in some cases health facilities and hospitals are too far for women who live in the deepest rural areas to reach. In these cases many women still prefer delivering at home which, of course, poses untold dangers to her life and the life of her baby.

But there is an underlying factor that many don’t address nearly enough that perpetually forces women to choose delivery at home over a health facility: the harsh treatment they receive from nurses and midwives at the health facilities.

It has been documented time and again that African health workers in particular can be bluntly unsympathetic and insensitive to women who are in labor and delivery. Just listen to the health worker in this mini-documentary, Birth is a Dream. At 5:00 you hear a woman crying uncontrollably during delivery and then you hear the female health worker tell her harshly, “Excuse me, there is nothing to cry like that as if they are beating you. Will you relax? Let the midwife do what’s she’s supposed to do!”

Continue reading Why Getting Women to Deliver in Health Facilities May Be Harder Than We Think

Human Rights Watch Explores the Lives of Indian Women Who Clean Human Waste

Lalibai stands by the entrance to the village cremation grounds. Before she took action, villagers had forbidden members of her community to cremate their dead here. © 2014 Digvijay Singh


Can you imagine getting up every morning to clean human waste from dry toilets (those without running water or that are not attached to a septic system) day after day without pay? And, while the work is humiliating enough adverse health conditions arise from carrying baskets of excreta on one’s head from losing patches of hair, having constant nausea and headaches  to getting skin diseases and having breathing difficulties.

india0814_reportcoverThis is the everyday existence for hundreds of thousands of women and men across India who are traditionally and culturally relegated to the lowest caste in India. It’s called “manual scavenging” or collecting human waste. When women in this Dalits (untouchables) caste are married, the first thing they are given from their mothers-in-law is a cane basket to clean human excrement. It’s a practice that has been handed down through generations. And despite laws in India that forbid this practice and provide protections to the Dalits (both men and women) who manually scavenge, it still goes on without any major government intervention.

In 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (the 2013 Act), was passed that prohibits manual scavenging and provides stronger protections for those who leave manual scavenging, but the evidence suggests the law is not working widely.

I had to work with my head veiled. During the rains, my clothes would  become drenched with excrement. They would not dry. The house would smell. I started to get skin disease and even to lose my hair.  —Badambai, Neemuch district, Madhya Pradesh, January 2014 (quote from the HRW report)

Human Rights Watch released a report this week, Cleaning Human Waste: “Manual Scavenging”, Caste, and Discrimination in India, that shares the stories about women in particular who collect human waste from the dry toilets of the upper castes and explores the role of government and civil society organizations in manual scavenging. The report also lays out ways in which Dalits can successfully leave collecting human waste as a livelihood.

As aforementioned, these women are not paid, but rather are given scraps of food that they in turn take back to their families. If they don’t work in these deplorable conditions, their families do no eat. That is what perpetuates the horrid cycle.

I clean 20 houses in Sandawli every day. They give me rotis. They don’t give more than two rotis, but they do give us something. My husband works in the fields, but work in the fields does not come every day. If I do this work, at least we will have something to eat. – Shanti, from Nagla Khushal, in Mainpuri  district, Uttar Pradesh

When women step up to leave manual scavenging they are oftentimes threatened with losing their homes and are even threatened with violence, even though the Indian Supreme Court has recognized that manual scavenging violates international human rights laws. What is proclaimed on the federal level, however, rarely trickles down to the municipal level and manual scavenging still takes place across India every day. While the government on every level is failing in this regard, civil society organizations are succeeding and women and men are standing up for their rights given to them by law to leave manual scavenging.

Read Lalibai’s story of standing up and freeing women across India from collecting human waste through organizations like Jan Sahas (People’s Courage) and Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan – the National Dignity Campaign. 

Introducing Our Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Correspondents

As our work continues to expand globally especially as the MDG deadline nears in 2015 we want to ensure that international voices are the cornerstone of our coverage of maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide. We are beginning with three correspondents: Winfred Ogdom, a nutritionist from Uganda, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a motherhood blogger and journalist from Nairobi, Kenya, and Midwives from Haiti, a NGO that is fighting maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere to be a mother, baby, or child under 5.

If you would like to be a correspondent, please email us at info@mombloggersforsocialgood.com for more information.

HAITI

LogoNewVertMidwives For Haiti is fighting maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere to be a mother, baby, or child under 5. We deliver culturally appropriate, high impact health interventions to increase access to quality maternal care.  Our projects- which include Skilled Birth Attendant training, a Mobile Prenatal Clinic, a Postnatal Care Clinic, staffing and supporting a maternity ward, and training traditional birth attendants in our Matròn Outreach Program- educate and empower Haitian men and women to improve the health of their communities, creating lasting change for our graduates and the lives of the mothers and children they care for.


 

KENYA 

Maryanne_Waweru pptMaryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a motherhood blogger from Nairobi, Kenya. She tells her motherhood stories on her blog mummytales.com where she also incorporates the experiences of other Kenyan mothers. On her blog, Maryanne provides education on pregnancy, birth, delivery and infant and child care and nutrition. Maryanne is a journalist with over fourteen years experience and who has written, and still writes for various publications in Kenya including: the Daily Nation newspaper, the Star newspaper, the Standard newspaper, Parents Magazine, Healthy Woman Magazine, Healthy Child Magazine and many other publications. Her area of specialty is human interest features, maternal and child health articles. Maryanne is married with two sons.


 

UGANDA

Winfred Ongom Winfred Ongom is a 23-year-old Ugandan Nutritionist acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics this year in December. She has a lot of interest in making the world a better place using her standards of humanity and care. And this has given her exposure on issues of maternal and child health and their importance in development.

Winfred advocates for children, young people and mothers. Currently, she is using social media to inform and educate people on the challenges being faced by young people and mothers. Winfred stresses the need to step up maternal and child health so the world can be a better place for everyone.

Winfred Ongom 1

 

 Featured photo courtesy of Midwives for Haiti.