Save the Children team in Yemen recognized for family planning program achievements in a Humanitarian Setting

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Yemen is currently experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with one-third in acute need. Of the 22.2 million people in need, more than five million are women of reproductive age, including an estimated half a million pregnant women. Before the current crisis escalated in March 2015, the average fertility rate was four children per woman and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in sixty. In only 30 other countries do women face a greater chance of dying due to complications of pregnancy or during childbirth. Access to family planning is limited with only 20 percent of women using a modern contraceptive method and a high unmet need for contraception of 33 percent.

In the dire context in Yemen, Save the Children staff work tirelessly to support children and their families, and we are so pleased that our family planning team that includes was recognized for the work they do in the face of tremendous adversity. At the International Conference on Family Planning, our Yemen team was awarded an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Award for their “significant contributions to the family planning field.”

Since the beginning of 2013, and through the escalation of the crisis, our reproductive health program has reached nearly 60,000 new family planning users through support to 16 health facilities in Hodeida and Lahj Governorates through funding from private foundation. The program has also expanded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (intrauterine devices and implants) that are more effective than other methods and are often a good choice in humanitarian settings where supply chains may be disrupted. This high quality work was leveraged to secure a new two-year award for Save the Children from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen family planning services in Yemen.

In addition to the recognition of our Yemen team, other Save the Children teams from Egypt humanitarian response for Urban Refugees in Cairo and Mali were recognized for their excellent work by winning “best poster” awards during the conference. Our submission was one of the twelve (out of 325 applications) named a finalist of the Quality Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Packard Foundation for a concept to pilot a digital, interactive contraceptive decision-making tool for young people in acute humanitarian emergencies in Somalia and Yemen. Through 41 posters and presentations, our staff demonstrated the positive impact our family planning programs have on the lives of children, adolescent girls, women and their families around the globe.

To learn more about how family planning saves lives and our presence at the International Conference on Family Planning, click here.

Moms are the Heroes

We’ve all heard it before in one form or another: “Don’t get between a mother and her baby,” “There is nothing better (or worse depending on your position!) than a fired up mom” or “Mothers are their kids’ best advocates. However you phrase it, I see evidence of this everywhere I go for my work as Save the Children’s CEO and, I guess, Mom-in-Chief. It plays out whether I’m in Washington, DC or Lexington, Kentucky or the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. And during my trip last week to rural Nepal, I saw it again in full force.

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Empowered Mothers Take Charge

As we sat and spoke with women at the counseling session on a warm day in Pakistan last week, it was clear to me that these women knew what they wanted—for themselves, for their families, and especially for their children. About 20 women, some in bright shalwar kamaz and others in dark burkas, sat under the shade next to a health facility. We discussed a topic important to millions of women the world over: how to build their families and plan for the future by thinking carefully about when to have children.

 

I was frankly surprised at the openness and candor of the women as I asked them sensitive questions about the decisions they make themselves and with their husbands, and the pros and cons of the available options. Pakistan remains a conservative society in many ways, but here the women demonstrated knowledge and understanding about the issue, and recognized how important it is to have the right to make reproductive decisions for their families. A mother’s choices have dramatic impact on the well-being of her children, which is why Save the Children works on the issue of family planning
with women around the world. For any mother, the health of her children—especially newborns—is affected by the age at which a mother first gives birth, adequate time between births, and the number of children she has.

 

This session was part of a comprehensive project Save the Children is implementing with the government in Haripur district, which rehabilitates health units to provide basic health services for pregnant mothers and newborns. The facility we visited earlier in the day is one of the most impressive facilities I have seen anywhere in the world at the primary care, or village, level. The spotlessly clean unit is staffed by two female doctors and several nursing staff as well as a pharmacist. A warehouse stocked with supplies is available on-site and the facility provides services 24/7 as needed. Women come here for prenatal visits, for family planning counseling and products, and to give birth in a simple, clean and safe facility with excellent care. Three women were in labor the day I visited and when I saw the care they received, I knew I would have felt comfortable having one of my own children there. In fact, in this district, almost 30% of mothers choose to give birth in the two primary care units that are part of this program. The other 71 facilities in the area account for about 60% of births and a small percentage of women go to district level hospitals. Clearly, many women in Haripur are choosing the quality and service they now find right in their own communities.

 

The challenge for our team in Pakistan now is how to expand our efforts beyond the two model centers, working with the government to implement the improvements we’ve made here across the entire district. We need to bring this effective model of health services to other poor communities where far too many children are still dying in the first critical month of life. If you would like to learn more about our maternal and newborn health programs, and the local health workers who are making a difference, please click here.

 

 

A Mom’s Best Or Worst Day

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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Every day, thousands of women celebrate one of life’s most amazing experiences — becoming a mother. But every 30 seconds a mother’s first moments with her baby are cut short, on the very day she gives birth.

 

Until now, we didn’t know how common this heartbreaking experience is in the United States and around the world. But Save the Children’s new report shows that one million babies die the day they are born.

 

State of the World’s Mothers 2013: Surviving the First Day also shows that today we have the evidence and cost-effective tools to save up to three quarters of newborn babies, without intensive care.

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Building government health systems in Bangladesh

Areba Panni

Areba Panni, Advisor-Strategic Communications,
MCHIP/Save the Children

Dhaka, Bangladesh

March 28, 2013


Bangladesh is a low-income nation in South Asia and one of
the most densely populated countries in the world.  Despite this, maternal mortality rates have decreased
by 40 percent since 2001 and the country is on track to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs)
on reducing maternal and child deaths by 2015. In fact, only eight other countries out of
the 74 that account for most of the maternal and child deaths can claim this
achievement. Maternal deaths remain concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and
South Asia, an indication of global disparities in women’s access to much
needed care during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period as well as
family planning services.  Bangladesh’s
astonishing progress in the health sector can be credited in part to the
government and communities working together at the district level to deliver
lifesaving assistance to mothers and babies in need.

An innovative safe motherhood project “MaMoni,” meaning
“mother-child,” has been supporting health systems coordination and service
delivery in fifteen sub-districts of rural Bangladesh since 2009.  Funded by the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID)
, the MaMoni project is run by Save the Children in
Bangladesh and two local NGOs, Shimantik and FIVDB, in partnership with Bangladesh’s
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The project aims to integrate household, community, and governmental
efforts to achieve improved health outcomes from the district level down to the
grassroots.  

As part of its reform agenda called “USAID Forward,” USAID is
focused on delivering results in an efficient and sustainable way, by building
the capacity of country governments and by providing more funds to country
governments directly. In Bangladesh, USAID
is boosting the capacity of the government to deliver health services to rural
areas. The agency has aligned its approach
with the government’s health sector strategy and for the first time is
investing $40 million over five years in the Bangladesh government through the
World Bank’s “Single Donor Trust Fund” to support health care and other
sectors. 

AidReform_Mariam BegumThe investment by the
United States and other donors to improve the government’s health service
delivery systems is making a big difference for women facing birth
emergencies. Last year, Mariam Begum,
who was living in a small village, was experiencing pain and heavy bleeding
following the birth of her child. A
local community volunteer, trained by MaMoni staff to recognize severe
conditions like Mariam’s, helped arrange her transport by a water ambulance to the
nearest government-owned health center where she was further evaluated. When the health center was unable to deal
with the severity of her condition, she was transferred to the district
hospital.  Mariam’s life was saved due to
the quick assessment of her condition by a community volunteer and the linkages
between the community and government health workers. 

In addition to facilitating
delivery of emergency services, MaMoni focuses on institution building and
community engagement and will assist the management of 11,000 community clinics
set up by the government in the country to roll out trainings for community
health care providers. MaMoni trains
government health workers to offer women pre- and post- pregnancy counseling,
birth assistance, vaccinations, and counseling on exclusive breastfeeding.

A network of more than 13,000 community volunteers set up and
trained by MaMoni respond to the needs of mothers and newborns, spot cases that
require treatment in health facilities, and help organize local health planning
meetings. The community volunteers collect health information from the
community and meet with frontline government health workers at the end of every
month to update registers. Large wall charts in the government’s family welfare
centers track where pregnant women live, their due dates, and whether they are
experiencing complications that should be monitored.   MaMoni staff are in regular dialogue with
the government to help improve their information systems and service delivery.

Based on these best practices from MaMoni, USAID is working
with other districts to introduce health systems strengthening projects. USAID’s ultimate goal is to demonstrate a
successful model and enable the government of Bangladesh to take it to scale throughout
the country.

USAID’s investments in
government capacity building help to ensure the long-term sustainability of
health programming in Bangladesh beyond the life of MaMoni and other
projects.   With these investments, survival
rates of at-risk mothers like Mariam increase and the coordination between
communities and the government improves the quality of and the access to women’s
health services throughout Bangladesh.

 

Family Planning Saves Lives, But Millions Can’t Access It

The following first appeared on Care2.com

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Around the world, an estimated 222 million women who don’t want to get pregnant cannot access contraception. I was surpised to learn Namutebi was one of them.

 

On the way to the Ugandan hospital where I met Namutebi, I saw several clinics advertising family planning services. The services were free and there for the asking. But despite her

Doh!-ville – Don’t forget the children, G8

Nora O'Connell Nora O’Connell, Save the Children Senior Director of Development Policy and Advocacy

Deauville, France

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The beautiful seaside village of Deauville, France, where the G8 leaders just held their annual Summit, is a long way from the villages of Malawi – in more ways than one.

The big story at the summit was the Arab spring – the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere – and how global leaders can support the people of those countries in creating lasting peace, stability and prosperity.

The G8's package of help for the Middle East is timely and important – but key pledges to the developing world still need to be delivered. We don't want an Arab Spring to be followed by a barren summer in Africa.

In Malawi, there is a different kind of uprising happening, but there the government is leading the charge. It is a movement calling for the end of needless deaths of thousands of mothers and children, mostly from preventable and treatable causes.

Malawi is symbolic of the transformation that can happen when a government, even of a poor country, commits itself to a goal and develops sounds policies, programs and partnerships to achieve it. They’ve prioritized proven approaches, like training community health workers, giving vaccines and fighting malnutrition – things that can help prevent and treat leading killers of children, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. And Malawi has achieved results – from 1990 to 2009, under-5 mortality rate has dropped by half.

What does this have to do with the G8? Because even committed countries like Malawi need donor support to stay on track, save lives, and create a brighter future for their countries.

At their previous two summits, G8 leaders made important promises to help developing countries that are struggling with maternal and child health and hunger. In Deauville, the G8 affirmed those commitments, but they need to turn that pledge into action by tackling the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers in the poorest countries. Training just one of these could help deliver lifesaving treatments to hundreds or even thousands of children and save many lives.

The U.S. will have two key moments in the next few months to deliver on its promises. The first is on the 2012 spending bills. Congress has to resist the temptation to sacrifice these proven programs in the name of cutting the federal deficit. Programs to fight global poverty are about half of 1 percent of the federal budget, so cuts to these programs won’t help families in either Michigan or Malawi.

The second moment will come in September in New York when health workers will be top of the agenda at a U.N. summit. In its accountability report, the G8 acknowledged how these workers are critical to health progress. Now the US should come to the U.N. with its plan to help meet the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers and empower those who are already working to save lives.

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 Meet local health workers and the children they help to survive. 

Malawian Grandmother Takes on the Role of a Lifetime

Eburke

Eileen Burke, Save the Children, Director of Media & Communications

Westport, CT

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 

This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network

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I read this week that the Associated Press named 88-year-old Betty White 2010 Entertainer of the Year, another honor to add to her long list of accolades as chief comedian. Approaching her ninth decade of life, the beloved Betty shows no signs of slowing down.

I was reminded of a similarly spry octogenarian whom I met in September 2009 during a visit to Save the Children’s health programs in Ekwendeni District in Malawi. Faida Simeza, age 89 (according to voter registration records in her possession), decided late in life to take on a new role as caretaker to moms and newborn babies in her village. It all began one day four years prior when a health worker came to her village to enlist grandmothers and grandfathers (known locally as agogos) in a new training program to help mothers and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth. “I had lived here long enough and had seen so many problems with mothers and newborns. I decided I had to go and find out more,” she told me.

Through the program, agogos are trained to counsel mothers through home visits on proper care during pregnancy and before and after childbirth. They also learn how to alter cultural practices that may be carried out with good intentions but are harmful. Sitting on straw mats under a canopy of trees, Faida and a group of agogos shared some of the changes they had made since the training. “Don’t feed ashes to a woman to speed up labor.” “Don’t apply rat feces to a child’s cord.” and “Don’t place a newborn baby on a banana leaf on the ground – he will get hypothermia.”

Eburke blog

In her role as an agogo, Faida (above) visits Lucy and her one-day-old baby at home.

Faida, though illiterate, works with the local public health officer to meticulously record her visits with women and babies in a book that is kept by the village chief. Since she finished her training, she has helped with the delivery and care of 10 healthy newborn babies in her village.

She will never get Hollywood awards for her role as an “agogo” in her village. But for Faida, walking around her village and seeing babies alive today because of her training is reward enough.

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Eileen Burke visited Ekwendeni last year to help film the Living Proof Agogo VideoRead the recent report on the Ekwendeni Agogo Approach, which includes the training manual and qualitative assessment report.

Serious Question at Mock Debate: Will African Union Leaders Keep Health Promises?


6a0120a608aa53970c0120a8cead43970b  
Tanya Weinberg, S
ave the Children manager, media and communications

Kampala, Uganda

July 22, 2010

These days, the Hotel Africana in central Kampala is abuzz with conferences and events related to the African Union summit now underway. Outside the meeting rooms, lies a big grassy courtyard where all sorts of groups are holding receptions in view of the rolling hillsides of the city outskirts.  Around the corner, Ugandan officials are credentialing dignitaries, media, and other observers for the official summit, held some distance away at a resort on Lake Victoria.  

Happily, I received my credential, but instead of traveling to the official summit today, I decided to go upstairs and attend a mock presidential debate hosted by health and humanitarian organizations.    

Debate dancing  As people trickled in, the warm-up entertainment began. A group of young women and men danced their hearts out and got a festive mood going as they sang along with the “Yes we can” refrain of joyful music playing. The message was – if youth can keep their promises, so can leaders.     

Above the stage was a banner exhorting African leaders to keep their 2001 promise in Abuja, Nigeria to address the huge burden of disease on the continent by devoting 15 percent of national budgets to health. Only a handful of the 53 nations have fulfilled that promise to date. According to 2010 World Health Organization figures, only three countries are meeting the Abuja 15 percent standard, down from six the year before.      

Meanwhile, many African countries have seen slow or no progress in reducing the large number of preventable child and maternal deaths devastating their communities. This year, child and maternal health is the theme of the African Union summit.     

So it was fitting today when a large group of performers gathered around the stage to sing a catchy song with the refrain “The time is now.  The time is now. Abuja 15 percent now!”    

Several more performances followed, including a group of men holding young children and bundles that were supposed to be their babies. They told stories of losing wives and babies during childbirth, and
Debate dadsseemed to be challenging the audience to consider this question – why is it more surprising to see grown men nurturing babies and young children than to hear about maternal and child deaths?    

When the actual debate began the supposed presidents of Malawi and Botswana got to talk about how their countries have recently joined the ranks of only 10 African nations to be on track to meet Millennium Goal 4.  That goal is to reduce child mortality rates to two thirds of 1990 levels by 2015.     

The other presidents couldn’t say the same, and some even tried to argue against Abuja despite high disease rates in their countries. The supposed president of Nigeria, however, said “I think as heads of 
Debate debaters  state we can not make commitments and then begin to dance around and discard. We should keep our commitments!”    

It would be wonderful if the real African heads of state said the same thing when they meet Sunday through Tuesday at the summit. To save the lives of millions of African newborns, children, and mothers each year, the leaders must not only commit to strong actions, they must follow through.      

If a very poor country like Malawi can successfully put a plan of action in place and slash child deaths, there is really no excuse why countries across Africa cannot do the same.