Carolyn in village 2

Innovation Born of Crisis

The woman, wrapped in a colorful head scarf and long flowing dress, sat on a cement step in the middle of a remote village in northeastern Somaliland.  She proudly showed me the small mobile phone and the Save the Children registration card bearing her photograph.  Then she told me how it was transforming her life, in the midst of a horrific drought.

The small phone, with money transferred from Save the Children’s drought relief program into a monthly account, meant her children could eat and continue to go to school. It gave her the independence to ensure that funds were going to meet her family’s greatest needs.  And it allowed her to go to local shops and buy what she needed, using funds of about $90 per month transferred from her phone to the merchant’s phone in small increments—so no actual money changes hands. This allows her to pay for her weekly needs each time she goes to shop, despite the fact that all her assets had been lost.

A woman with cash transfer via mobile

 

The people in this region depend on livestock like goats and camels.  Their whole life revolves around moving from place to place with their animals to graze, selling a few goats a month or a camel twice a year to support the entire family.  But when the drought started last year and the rain failed to come, there were no more grasslands for grazing and no water to give to the animals. First a few died, then several more each day. Many of the women I spoke to on my visit this week had lost all their animals.  Those with larger herds had gone from 200 goats to just 40 over the last few months.

The cash program managed by Save the Children and other partners and funded with money from the European Union serves as a lifeline for these families.  And because mobile money can be transferred directly to the phones (which are also provided if recipients don’t have one), it is a secure and efficient way to ensure that money gets into the hands of mothers who will use it to benefit their children.  We can also benefit from the data available through the telecom companies, which details how much has been used each month and at what merchant—allowing us to track usage and patterns to improve our programs for families in dire need.

Carolyn in village

 

Best of all, the children of this community are not going hungry, they are staying in school and they are able to survive one of the worst droughts to hit Somaliland in decades.

And even halfway around the world in the middle of an extreme drought, I found that some things about new technology are true everywhere.  When I asked one of the women if they had trouble learning how to use the phone, they said no…they just got one of their children to help them.

Just like me and every other mother around the world!

Shashank Shrestha/Save the Children

Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!

Originally published on HealtyNewbornNetwork.org

Midwife Rita helped deliver Rupa and Rajkumar’s first-born daughter this year at the newly constructed Taruka health facility in rural Nepal, a facility Save the Children helped rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake. The proximity of a health post and availability of a skilled auxiliary nurse midwife helped save the newborn’s life. Even though Rupa had visited the health post often to ensure her pregnancy was proceeding, she was still anxious as her delivery approached. She had heard awful stories of women losing their lives during childbirth. But by delivering in a health facility with a skilled, well-equipped, and respectful midwife, both mom and baby survived childbirth and the days following without complication.

Rita’s story is just one of many we should celebrate today on International Day of the Midwife. However, there are other stories that won’t end as happily. Today, nearly 830 women will needlessly die giving birth, more than 7,200 babies will not survive childbirth or the last three months of pregnancy, and another 7,300 babies will die within the first hours and days after birth. That adds up to 303,000 women and 5.3 million infants every year whose lives are lost. Nearly all of these deaths could be prevented if high-quality services were available to every woman and baby everywhere.

And while 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries, rich countries like the United States are not exempt. Thousands of families suffer the tragedy of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity every year in developed countries.

This week, US celebrity Jimmy Kimmel shared his emotional story about his son’s heart defect on national television and expressed praise and appreciation for the midwives who supported his family throughout the process. Jimmy said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” This statement is no less true in low-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. And for marginalized populations, like those who live in hard-to-reach areas, and are victims of conflict and humanitarian crises.

No mother – anywhere – should have to risk her life or that of her baby by going through childbirth without the expert care of a midwife or other skilled birth attendant. Yet, globally, one in four women gives birth without such care. And 2.2 million give birth all alone. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2015 there would be a shortage of more than 3.5 million health workers – including a million midwives. This means that mothers and children have no one to diagnose and treat their illnesses, provide immunizations, or help them stay healthy.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life! Partnerships are central to midwifery. Midwives partner with women, families, and communities to provide lifesaving healthcare to mothers and babies, from before pregnancy to the first months after birth. They collaborate with doctors and facility staff to devise treatment plans and deliver high-quality, respectful care. They serve in government ministries and other decisionmaking bodies to make policy and funding decisions that ensure midwives have the resources they need. And they teach, mentor, and supervise to ensure midwives both practice what they know and learn new skills.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths requires more qualified midwives, more empowered midwives, better resourced midwives, and more respect for midwives. How can we strengthen these partnerships? For one, we can listen to midwives’ voices. The upcoming Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives is another opportunity to engage with midwives to strengthen support of their work. I am making it a priority this week and in the coming weeks to listen to the voices of midwives.

If you are a midwife or want to recognize a midwife for her partnership for life, please write to the Healthy Newborn Network with your story and we will be sure to share it.

For the Mothers and Babies of Abnoub

Author Portrait_Samar Abdel Fattah, Health Worker
Samar Abdel Fattah

Health Worker

Save the Children in Egypt

May 3, 2017

25-year-old Samar lives in Abnoub, Egypt and worked as an unpaid volunteer for the Community Development Association for Orphan Care, known locally as CDAOC, for a full year. However, she felt that she could do even more to help children in need. She wanted to prove herself and also showcase the work she was already doing to help local children. She took on a number of health projects initiated and funded by local foundations and government entities, including the Ministry of State for Family and Population Affairs. In these projects she conducted health-awareness campaigns, for example spreading messages on the importance of keeping a clean home and properly disposing of garbage to reduce the spread of disease, among community members.

Samar conducting a training with local nurses.
Samar conducting a training with local nurses.

Despite her efforts to document and share her successes, Samar didn’t feel that her work was well recognized. Until one day, the senior supervisor of health projects from Save the Children paid her a visit. Samar jumped at the opportunity to connect with the organization. She introduced him to her work, and he went on to spread those successes in improving health and hygiene in communities to other governorates all over the country. After that, when Save the Children was looking to select new health program team members, they chose CDAOC to partner with and specifically reached out to Samar.

Samar began conducting workshops to train female village leaders, community representatives, mothers and nurses on Sponsorship’s evidence-based and innovative programs, which spread health messages to local women using tools like educational videos and play-acting to keep them engaged. Topics include how to recognize dangers signs during pregnancy, the health benefits of breastfeeding infants, the importance of vaccination, basic first-aid for accidents in the home, and much more.

Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!
Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!

She also received trainings in what Sponsorship calls “Kangaroo Mother Care”, an initiative which imitates the way the kangaroo carries her baby. This improves mother-to-child attachment, providing newborns with continuous affection and tenderness that aids in a healthy upbringing. Through these sessions and other trainings, Samar learned how to examine a new-born child, as well as deliver community- and home-based meetings for pregnant women and mothers of newborns on skills for the healthy nutrition and care of their babies.

Today, Samar feels fulfilled in her life. She is now a certified trainer of the Assiut Health Directorate, thanks to her work with Save the Children, and possesses countless health certificates. Her name glows next to the names of university professors, doctors and hospital managers on training materials that are shared nation-wide. We are very proud to have her as a partner!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

A Mother’s Perspective: Feliza Asteti

Crispin AcostaCrispín Acosta, Basic Education Facilitator

Cochabamba, Bolivia

October 12, 2012



My name is Crispín Acosta and I work for the Wawakunan Purina Program (We work with the children) as a basic education facilitator at the San Nicolás School in Bolivia. My work offers me the
opportunity to work closely with the entire school community – children, parents,teachers and the authorities. Through my work I recently had the opportunity to talk with Mrs. Feliza Asteti from Oruro in the Challapata Province.
Feliza and her daughter Daniela helping to find words in the dictionary

The Asteti family moved to Cochabamba 16 years ago. They live near the Nicolás neighborhood and like many in this area they suffer from deficiencies in basic services such as water, electricity, sewerage, telephones and transportation.

During my conversation with Feliza she clearly showed how happy a mother gets, knowing that her daughter Daniela is sponsored and has friends in other countries.

With a beaming face she asked me how to pronounce Daniela’s sponsor’s name in English and explained how happy and excited Daniela is to receive and send letters and drawings to her sponsor.

 TCrispin and Felizahe education materials delivered on behalf of Save the Children are also a great source of joy for both the students and parents. “I have seen the materials that were delivered to the school. Bookshelves and many books, balls, toys and materials so they learn better, like calculators. I also participated in a workshop on how to speak with my family and how to treat my children. This was very helpful and I want to continue participating in this type of workshop,” shared Feliza.

A parent’s emotion and satisfaction of being able to rely on educational materials of equal or better quality than well-funded city schools, and seeing the results of their children improving their learning skills, is expressed by Feliza: “I have said that before we never had anything at school, but now new materials are arriving for our school and my daughter no longer wants to miss school, therefore I am very happy and I thank the friends, sponsors and Save the Children.”

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

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

 ____

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.

Mothers dying in child birth! How could this be happening?

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 7, 2009  Manila, Philippines

How does one stay focused when everything around you screams for attention? This is how I felt when I entered the evacuation camp in the Cupang Elementary School in Muntinlupa. There was stagnant water everywhere, 15 families huddled into one classroom, women bathing on one side, children playing, several pregnant women wandering around, people sleeping on the floor, someone washing clothes, another bathing a little child.LathaIMG_2666  

  

My eyes fell on a lady holding a little child. To me, it looked like the child was a few days old. I asked her how old the child was and she said," 2 months. " The baby did not look like a two-month old child at all.

 

I asked her when the child was born, thinking there must be some miscalculation, and she said, "July. He was born in his 7th month."

 

I held out my hands and asked her if I could carry the child and she willingly gave him to me. As I was holding the child she said to me, “The mother died giving birth to this child.” I was shocked, and angry, and frustrated all at the same time. Mothers dying in child birth! How could this be happening?

 

"He is being breastfed by other lactating women in our neighborhood,” she said. "He will need several mothers to replace the one he lost."

 

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines