Looking for bite-sized global news and issues from maternal health to food security? You've come to the right place.
This week child survival is under critical review in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the African Leadership for Child Survival – A Promise Renewed summit. This meeting, held at the African Union headquarters and convened by the Ethiopian government along with UNICEF and USAID brought together African Ministers of Health to enter into discussions about markedly improving child survival rates. The summit ends Friday. (via Under Five Child Survival Under Microscope at Summit – Mom Bloggers for Social Good)
In speaking to health workers while on an observation trip to Ethiopia this month with Save the Children I repeatedly asked about access to medial supplies – from family planning supplies to medications for malaria, for example – and every health worker in every village I asked said the supplies were plenty. They were quite nonchalant about my inquiries, in fact, which signaled to me that whatever medical supplies the health workers need they can get. Running water and health posts with electric power are entirely different stories, however. (via Counting Medical Supplies in Africa – Mom Bloggers for Social Good)
Time after time during our trip with Save the Children to observe frontline health workers, hopes were high after visiting health facilities in Ethiopia. The sheer dedication of the health workers who provide lifesaving care for their community was palpable, but the harsh reality remains: resources and equipment are needed in greater quantities in order to save more lives. (via Day 4 in Ethiopia: U.S. Nurses See Local Health Facilities Up Close | Impatient Optimists)
One of the most startling facts I learned while in Ethiopia is that 90% of all births take place at home even though health extension workers are trained to perform safe and clean deliveries in every corner of the country. The maternal mortality ratio in Ethiopia is 676 for every 100,000 births, according to the World Health Organization, a number that has not budged in the last five years despite country-wide interventions implementation by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and NGOs, like Save the Children. Still only 6 percent of births are attended by skilled birth attendants. (via Delivery Rooms in Ethiopian Health Posts, Centers, and Hospitals | Perspectives & Reflections with Jennifer James)
Save the Children recently launched the Every Beat Matters campaign that shines a much-needed, and well-deserved spotlight on health workers in developing countries. It is through these health workers that newborn and child care can be improved. Access to proper and consistent care is a perpetual obstacle in countries where health workers are scarce. In many middle income and poor countries, particularly in rural areas, there may be one lone health worker for 10,000 people or more. This in itself is a gargantuan task for those who desperately need access to quality care. Community health workers also tend to care for their patients with much fewer supplies, medicines, and technology than what we are accustomed to in the States, posing yet another mammoth problem for health workers’ ability to provide care. (via Why I am In Ethiopia This Week | Perspectives & Reflections with Jennifer James)
At Bishoftu Hospital, we meet two HIV+ mothers who received assistance through a US-funded program called Food by Prescription. Quietly speaking through translation, one woman, Mary (whose name has been changed) wipes away tears as she recounts her experience with the program. Mary, a thin woman with sun-worn skin, was diagnosed with malnutrition along with her HIV positive status and was provided free Plumpy’Sup (the adult equivalent of children’s Plumpy’Nut) in order to increase her weight.
The Ethiopian government has trained over 38,000 health extension workers (HEWs) since 2003 - all women. Each health extension worker provides direct care for children and women at their community’s health post. At each health post throughout Ethiopia two HEWs are responsible for the health and care of 1000 households or 5000 individuals according to Dr. Mengistu. Health extension workers are paid for their work. (via My First Day in Ethiopia: An Army of Women Fight to Save Lives | Impatient Optimists)
In Ethiopia, only 51% of babies are breastfed with complementary foods from 6-9 months, but from 20 – 23 months 82% of all toddlers are still being breastfed. Ethiopia was also given a “good” rating for policy support of the WHO code (International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes).
In Ethiopia the rate of survival for newborns still concerns health officials. 75.29 newborns per 1000 live births will die within their first few months of life per Global Health Facts. That is alarming to Save the Children because if that number does not decrease the overall number for child mortality will not decrease either. Reducing child mortality for children under the age of five is critical to the health of countries and to the world and is a commitment under the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015.
On the community level, health extension workers (HEWs) primarily help expectant and new mothers, newborns, and children. They are trained to diagnose and treat pneumonia, malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea. They perform antenatal care and prevention and even deliver babies. And they also provide follow-up care for new mothers.
For normal deliveries, mothers will remain at Bishoftu for six to 24 hours. For C-sections they will remain at the facility for 2-3 days. In some instances where babies are born prematurely or have heavy complications, the babies must stay in the NICU. Admittedly, Bishoftu’s NICU is small and lacks in high tech tools and equipment. Below are cribs, but in the adjacent room there were attending nurses for the babies and equipment to keep them alive and warm.
In speaking with Dr. Birkety Mengistu, the Maternal Newborn Child Health Advisor at Save the Children’s Addis Ababa’s office, we learned that there is an ample supply of family planning options for any woman who wants it. There are, however, cultural taboos about contraceptives causing many women to forego family planning altogether.