It is no surprise that the world needs more health workers. In fact, even though there are currently 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives globally there is an urgent need for 18 million more health workers in order to reach universal health care coverage by 2030 according to the World Health Organization.
There is a particular need for 9 million nurses and midwives as they are critical components to a robust health system and are often on the front lines of general and critical care including:
Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases
Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases
Sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, and maternal and newborn health care, including immunization and breastfeeding support.
The United Nations has designated Sierra Leone as the most dangerous place to have a baby. In fact, it has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births. On average, most women have at least six babies in Sierra Leone.
In a previous post I mentioned the Aminata Maternal Foundation that helps pregnant women in Sierra Leone. An Australian organization, it was started by a woman, Aminata Conteh-Biger, who became a sex slave during the Liberian Civil War. Now, she is giving back to expectant mothers after so many years away from her home country.
This video shows the work of the Aminata Maternal Foundation and how it oftentimes becomes difficult for young pregnant girls to receive permission from family and elders to deliver in a hospital or health center. It also shows the frustration of healthcare workers who try to teach entire villages about the importance of proper maternal healthcare.
Maternal mortality continues to be a major problem the world over. The United States is the only developed country where maternal death rates are increasing especially for non-Hispanic black women. And in low-and-middle income countries, approximately 830 women die each day from pregnancy-related, preventable causes.
Maternal health organizations are working diligently to save more mothers’ lives, but one death is still too many especially when it is likely preventable. I like to list organizations that you can support with donations in order to help them keep more women and their children alive on the local level and make sure mothers are a part of their families’ lives.
This list highlights local organizations that help some of the most vulnerable communities in countries with some of the highest maternal mortality rates. And, in the cases of the United States and Australia, the organizations help the communities that experience the most maternal deaths. Each site allows direct donations that go directly to maternal care and/or advocacy.
Women in low-and-middle-income countries need clean birth kits in order to stave off deadly infections in themselves and their newborns. This is the case not only during home births with midwives but also in institutionalized settings.
Zubaida Bai, founder of Ayzh, a social enterprise that creates clean, safe birthing kits for women as well as reproductive, newborn and adolescent kits, discusses how she included women’s voices in the development of clean birthing kits.
I am convinced that in order for maternal health interventions to work anywhere in the world, women must be consulted first as opposed to NGOs and charities developing products for women without their input. Bai expresses this brilliantly in this recent TED talk.
Every day 800 women die during childbirth or from pregnancy complications. This startling statistic represents women who not only live in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur but also throughout the world.
In order to reduce the number of maternal deaths in low- and middle-income countries across the globe design teams, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and NGOs are creating innovative ways in which to save more mothers’ lives through inexpensive interventions that are conducive to low resource settings.
In many hospitals and health clinics, for example, power can go out at any moment requiring alternatives that allow health workers workarounds to the perpetual problem of power outages. In these settings, women can also experience life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage that requires immediate attention with interventions that stop bleeding. Additionally, some women do not have the money to afford the items needed during childbirth and innovators are solving those problems as well.
While maternal deaths have fallen 50 percent since 1990, in some countries the maternal mortality rate remains stagnant. Only half of expecting mothers in developing countries receive the health care they need to deliver healthy babies and to survive childbirth.
Below are five innovative interventions that are used in countries where maternal mortality is high in order to make a positive impact on saving mothers’ lives.
Jhpiego:(Updated, May 11, 2017) While Jhpiego developed a “testing pen” to catch and diagnose eclampsia in its earliest stages the project did not move forward after rigorous testing.
Safe Surgeries: Jhpiego has partnered with the GE Foundation, funder for the Safe Surgery 2020 Initiative, to ensure mothers have access to safe, affordable, life-saving caesarean sections in Ethiopia. With the help and input of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, Safe Surgery 2020 provides training, leadership skills, and updated procedures for safe surgeries at partner institutions in Ethiopia through implementing partner Jhpiego. The results have seen improved patient care and recovery, fewer surgery backlogs, reduced infections, and a holistic approach to safer surgeries.
PATH: PATH created an antishock garment that controls postpartum bleeding by applying pressure to the lower body and forcing blood upwards and prevents hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage is the number one cause of maternal deaths.
PATH: PATH also developed a balloon tamponade to stop uterine bleeding early. While there are other balloon tamponades in the market, they are expensive and inaccessible, especially in the developing world.