In Uganda, mothers are dying at an alarming and increasing rate. Uganda's Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) has consistently been one of the highest in the world with 440 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to Unicef's latest data. In Uganda, one woman out of every 49 will die of a maternal complication related to pregnancy or delivery.
Women in rural Uganda face multiple barriers to accessing critical routine and lifesaving maternal health care. The barriers fall into the Three Delays Model: delay in deciding to seek care, delay in reaching care (e.g. transportation and lack of road infrastructure), and delay in receiving adequate and appropriate care (e.g. lack of skilled birth attendants). In Uganda, the leading causes of maternal death are hemorrhage, eclampsia (high blood pressure), unsafe abortion, and infection. All of these causes of death are largely preventable. What makes the Three Delays Model so important is that with appropriate medical care, the vast majority of these deaths would not occur. This model addresses the barriers to accessing lifesaving treatment by outlining where each barrier may occur. Central to this model is the practice of encouraging women to seek care as soon as possible, in order to ensure survival.
MATERNAL HEALTH NETWORK
Our Maternal Health Network (MHN) takes an innovative, holistic approach towards reducing maternal and newborn deaths. With funding from the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York (JWFNY), the Global Health Corps (GHC), and the U.S. Embassy of Uganda, we have launched a comprehensive Antenatal Education Center (AEC) to train over 700 women, their male partners, and Village Health Teams (VHTS) in critical prenatal care. We recently completed the third round of our maternal health education course at the AEC, with approximately 160 participants.
In the next three years, we seek to establish a SMS platform to send routine pregnancy reminders and dispatch emergency transport. We also plan to build an established birthing center and midwifery school to provide women access to a quality health facility, further helping them deliver in a dignified environment.
VILLAGE HEALTH TEAM (VHT) TRAININGS
VHTs are a critical and underutilized component within the Ugandan health system, and we believe that by helping to strengthen the first responders’ abilities to detect danger signs, advise on health behaviors and choices, provide quality medical referrals, and collect accurate data throughout remote villages, we can maximize our impact. We are training over 200 VHTs in detecting health complications, maternal health education, and recording maternal health indicators for families. We are also equipping VHTs with monitoring and evaluation tools such as home registries to track and report rural health indicators.
IMPROVING LOCAL DELIVERY CONDITIONS
We have also improved the conditions in which women in rural Jinja give birth. The local midwife, Clementina (pictured middle), delivers an average of three babies a day as a midwife, and is often the preferred and only accessible option for assisted birthing. We installed solar lighting, windows, a roof, doors, mattresses, and a water collection and drainage system in her birthing suite and provided clean birthing supplies. We have also improved the comfort and safety of the birthing suite by adding a waiting room, bringing potable running water, and constructing overhead showers and pit latrines.