Why is it that every day, 800 mothers die from almost entirely treatable complications of pregnancy and labor. Almost all of these women live in the developing world with sub-Saharan Africa bearing much of the weight of this silent tragedy. From extensive public health research we know that almost all of maternal deaths can be traced to one or more of three delays.
- First Delay: is the delay in the decision to seek care and is due to the the poor socio-economic status of women, a lack of knowledge regarding the risks of pregnancy and labor, as well as previous negative experiences with health care providers.
- Second Delay: is the delay to reach health care facilities due to poor transportation infrastructure as well as the cost of transport in many countries, especially in rural areas where most people live.
- Third Delay: is the delay to receive high quality health care, which is due to poor knowledge and skills of providers, lack of medicines, supplies and equipment as well as poor infrastructure of our health facilities.
Since 2015, Brick by Brick, through its Babies and Mothers Alive (BAMA) Program, has been partnering with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to dramatically improve the quality of care at 25 government-funded health facilities providing maternal and newborn health care. We have trained all of the midwives and physicians caring for mothers and their babies in the Rakai and Kyotera Districts. In addition to a regular schedule of clinical trainings, our experienced staff work along side local health providers, mentoring them so that knowledge and skills attained in training are reinforced and strengthened throughout the year. In order to build our local health care system, we have also trained 30 Mentor Midwives, government employees who are now working with BAMA staff to improve the quality of care at each of our health centers and hospitals.
In 2017, we are beginning to see that the strong partnership we have created is improving quality of care and saving lives. In 2015 and 2016, 19 women lost their lives each year due to complications of pregnancy and labor in our 25 health facilities. In 2017, that number was reduced to 6! While no woman should die from treatable complications, we are proud of how many mothers have been saved due to the determination and hard work of so many. We are also seeing a significant increase in the number of women delivering in health centers, from 53% of pregnant women in 2016 to 65% last year. In BAMA-supported facilities, among those expectant mothers who came for prenatal care, 81% delivered safely at their local health center. This as compared to just 65% in non-BAMA supported facilities.
While we are encouraged by the impact we are having to date, to be honest, we are only scratching the surface of what is possible. With our limited resources, we currently have only one tenth of the funds needed to fully address the problem of maternal and newborn mortality for the half million people we serve, we have focused our work on the Third Delay, improving the quality of care at health centers and hospitals. We have sought to address supply chain issues for life saving medicines, equipment and supplies. But there is so much more to be done.
To protect the lives of all of our mothers and babies we need to address the first and second delays. This requires a broad community-based approach that focuses on empowering women and their families with knowledge about their pregnancies, allowing women to have full dominion over their reproductive health choices. Now that we have worked to improve the quality of care at health centers, we need to increase the demand for, and utilization of, health centers and hospitals. We also need to improve transportation and referral systems, so that women can get to their health centers and that patients can be referred without delay, when the need arises.
To accomplish our goal that no woman or baby should die from preventable or treatable complications of pregnancy, we need to expand our resources. Here's where you can help. On Wednesday, April 18th, Brick by Brick will hold its 7th Annual Blues Night Fundraiser. By purchasing your tickets to this great springtime event, you are partnering with us to save the lives of mothers and babies, empowering young women through our My Pads Program, and building safe and supportive learning environments in free primary schools in Uganda. Please take action now by clicking BLUES NIGHT!