Inflammation and stories on maternal health

Lifewraps Save Lives

In developing nations maternal deaths are far too common, and postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of deaths of mothers in these countries, accounting for nearly a quarter of all maternal deaths in the world according to the World Health Organization.

Postpartum hemorrhage is when the mother loses too much blood after giving birth, cutting off oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. This condition is very rare in developed countries because medical care is much more advanced and available than in lower-income nations. Also, most women in poorer countries give birth at home and don’t have timely access to a hospital.

The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, also called a life wrap, is designed to combat this problem and lower the number of postpartum hemorrhage deaths. It’s made of simple materials—neoprene and Velcro—and was originally created by NASA for space programs. It was presented by health experts at the Women Deliver 2013 conference, a meeting of policymakers, researchers, and advocates to focus on women’s empowerment and health.

The life wrap works by restricting blood flow, therefore limiting blood loss. The garment is wrapped around a women’s legs and abdomen to slow the bleeding and send oxygen back to the heart, lungs, and brain—areas that need it the most. The product is simple, yet it can be a lifesaver.

However, the life wrap is intended to only be a way to buy time so that women can get to a hospital. With postpartum hemorrhage, they only have about two hours from the time the bleeding starts before they die of blood loss, and the life wrap extends that time frame so that they can make it to a hospital to receive proper medication and care.

– Katie Brockman

Source: The Guardian, Women Deliver
Photo: The Guardian

Maternal Mortality Drops; MDGs Still IncompleteIn 1990, complications during childbirth claimed the lives of more than 1,487 women a day in the 75 countries where women were most at risk for birth-related deaths. This number, which totals 543,000 per year, was reduced to 287,000 in 2010. A decline this steep (52%) aligns with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the U.N. in 2000.

Countdown to 2015, an organization, which tracks coverage levels for health interventions aimed at reducing maternal mortality, child mortality, and newborn mortality, has collected statistics recording this decline since the 1990s. However, the steepest decline in mortality occurred after 2000 once the Millennium Development Goals were set in place. The Millennium Development Goal that specifically targets this problem is MDG 5.

The results of MDG 5 are a little behind schedule. The U.N. outlined a decline of two-thirds by 2015 and currently, the drop has only reached 47% worldwide. However, the total number of lives saved has been extremely high.

While it is easy to criticize the efforts of the Millennium Development Goals as being ineffective in reaching their target percentage, the general amount of good being done by the development goals is still very high. This type of progress oftentimes has a ripple effect which is very difficult to measure by surveys and statistics alone.

– Pete Grapentien

Photo Source Flickr

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When Katlin Jackson volunteered at an orphanage in Haiti, she expected to do a lot of important work.  What she didn’t expect was how her trip inspired Haiti Babi, an organization that aims to keep Haitian children in their homes and out of orphanages.
One in ten children in Haiti lives in an orphanage.  That’s nearly 500,000 kids who don’t live with their parents.  Many of them aren’t even orphaned; their parents just can’t afford to provide for them, so they are removed from their care and placed in orphanages.  As a volunteer, Katlin met and fell in love with one of these “orphans”.  One year old Sterly, like so many residents, had been taken from his parents not because they had died or mistreated him, but because they couldn’t afford a house, food, or basic medical care.
On a second trip to Haiti, Katlin was able to visit Sterly and his family after they had been reunited.  She was able to see firsthand the love in Sterly’s home, and that his parents wanted nothing more than to be able to care for and be with their son.  Katlin left Haiti with her mind made up that a loving family should not be forced apart due to poverty.  So she founded Haiti Babi, an organization that employs Haitian mothers wanting to provide for their children.
Haiti Babi, partnered with Second Mile Ministries in Haiti, enables Haitian moms to earn a reliable income for their family by knitting and crocheting artisan baby blankets.  Mothers around the world have the opportunity to support these women by purchasing their quality, handmade products online.  The sentiment behind the idea: moms helping moms.
So next time you’re in the market for a baby blanket, buy one that can warm your heart; a Haiti Babi blanket, handmade by a mother, doing everything she can for the children she loves.
Dana Johnson

Source: Haiti Babi

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Happy Mother’s Day?  Well, maybe not in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was recently named the worst place to be a mom according to a report done by Save the Children. The DRC took the unwanted ranking from Niger and for the first time in the 14 years since the report has been published, sub-Saharan Africa took up the bottom ten places.

The London-based charity’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report compared 176 countries in terms of maternal health, child mortality, education and levels of women’s income and political status.  The results were staggering and showed massive gaps in maternal health. A woman or girl in the DRC has a 1 in 3o chance of dying from maternal causes, including childbirth, whereas a women in Finland faces a 1 in 12,200 risk. The report cited the poor health of mothers as well as low access to health care  as possible causes for the high rates of infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.

Save the Children is calling for an investment to close the gap. They cite the need for nations to invest in mothers and children and to provide better and more accessible maternal care.  Women must have access to education and political standing as well as high quality health and child care.

Much progress is being made in developing countries and sub-Saharan Africa; the study pointed to four life-saving products that could drastically change the current state of affairs. Those four products are:

1. Corticosteroid injections to women in preterm labor.

2. Resuscitation devices to save babies who do not breathe at birth.

3. Chlorhexidine cord cleansing to prevent umbilical cord infections.

4. Injectable antibiotics to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia.

Simple devices and measures like these have the potential to give mothers and infants in countries like the DRC a better chance at a full, healthy life.  It is time to continue the progress being made and even the odds for mothers in the DRC and all across sub-Saharan Africa.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Global Post

More Midwives Needed in NepalNepal’s maternal mortality rate (MMR), or the ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for reasons related to pregnancy or birth, has declined in Nepal over the last fifteen years. It is estimated that between 1996 and 2005, Nepal reduced its MMR from 539 deaths to 281. It was estimated in 2010 to be around 170.

These declines, similar to those seen in countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand, are cause for hope. However, health care experts say the gains in Nepal are unsustainable if the country does not address its need for more health care professionals, especially midwives, to prevent women from dying in childbirth.

Declines in maternal mortality rate are attributable to a number of factors other than improved health care access or services. Nepal’s paradox is that even though the MMR is decreasing, access to skilled birth care is still very low. In general, improved health care positively correlates with reduced MMR, but sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have not demonstrated a strong correlation so far due to lack of skilled birth care.

Experts in maternal health do not have the data necessary to determine the exact causes of the decline, but there are multiple factors involved. The top reasons are the social empowerment of women, reduced fertility, and government health care programs. Nepalese women are now having fewer children on average, and have more access to contraception and family planning tools. Women’s life expectancies and literacy rates have increased as MMR has declined. Women are now also offered financial incentives to seek medical care during pregnancy and have more access to affordable, life-saving health care such as blood transfusions.

Nepal is on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent, to 134 deaths per 100,000 live births. When it reaches that point, the country will require the help of more midwives and health care workers trained in birthing to further reduce maternal mortality. A 2012 UN study found that a midwife in attendance during birth can reduce up to 90 percent of maternal deaths.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: Midwife Ramilla

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Almost half of all deaths in recent years in the Somaliland region of Somalia have been neonatal; that is to say that many children die in the first few days of their lives. Thankfully, organizations like Life for African Mothers are working to combat the issues of maternal health and frighteningly high infant mortality rates in many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Life for African Mothers began providing medication to treat maternal health issues back in 2008 after U.K. Somalis solicited the aid on behalf of the residents of their homeland. The organization also provides crucial medication to hospitals and clinics in parts of Nigeria, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Once delivered to Somaliland, that medication is distributed by The Somaliland Nursing and Midwifery Association to the many clinics that receive support from the organization. Ambassadors from Life for African Mothers recently visited the region and inspected the hospital facilities that receive their aid and found that the labor and delivery areas were clean and serviceable.

The latest data available from the World Health Organization still states that the entire country of Somalia has one of the highest rates of neonatal mortality on Earth. While great aid organizations continue in their efforts to change this depressing figure, it is critical that they not be left to complete the task by themselves.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Wales Online, WHO
Photo: Life for African Mothers

US AID Helping Eliminate HIV and AIDS in Nigeria

“The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has expressed commitments towards ensuring that pregnant women and [sic]People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are provided with adequate medical services,” report Vera Sam-Anyagafu and Prisca Sam-Duru of allAfrica.

The effort of providing proper medical equipment and training is part of the USAID mission to save one million lives, notes Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, during his official visit to Island Maternity in Lagos, Nigeria.

This arm of US foreign policy emphasizes the fight against AIDS and the United States’ investment in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing adequate maternal healthcare worldwide. Having proper prenatal care and enforcing proper hospital procedures and training has helped eliminate disease transmission of HIV and AIDS in Island Maternity and Dr. Shah believes that this result bodes well for the elimination of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria as a whole.

In his words, “…if Nigeria can replicate what has happened in this hospital throughout this country, it will be well out of its way to achieving its goal of saving one million lives and the United States is proud to be the primary partner to help achieve that outcome.”

– Nina Narang

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Guardian

Curbing Maternal Death In EthiopiaWhile Ethiopia’s health system has improved, women are still dying from common birthing complications that can occur before, during and after childbirth. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that approximately 25,000 maternal deaths occur annually.

Luwei Pearson, Chief of the Health Section at the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia said, “There must be efforts to ensure that health facilities are not just available but that they are also functional by, for instance, fitting them with electricity and piped water.”

As of 2011, Ethiopia recorded 676 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. In 2005, there were only 673 maternal deaths recorded. Ethiopia aims to decrease its current maternal death rate to 267 as of 2015.

The five major causes of maternal mortality in Ethiopia are ruptured uterus, abortion complications, postpartum hemorrhage, puerperal sepsis, and preeclampsia/eclampsia.

The Ethiopian government has created steps to lower the rates of maternal death. These initiatives include the use of a scorecard to determine the effectiveness of the health system as well as the creation of a health extension program that has trained about 30,000 extension, health workers.

Currently, only 1% of expectant mothers deliver with the supervision of extension health workers. The Ministry of Health reports that these workers have individually helped 2,500 people. The number helped will increase as more extension health workers are trained.

Rural areas require particular attention as around 83% of Ethiopia’s 87.1 million residents reside in rural areas. There is a drastic difference between the percentages of babies delivered with the help of skilled personnel in urban versus rural areas with 45% in urban areas and only 3% in rural areas.

Health facilities must also be built in order to ensure hygienic birthing conditions in rural areas. The University of Addis Ababa determined in 2009 that in the rural Tigray Region, 80% of maternal deaths occur in the home and 50% were the result of failed transportation to a health facility.

“We are optimistic that [the] goal [of reducing child and maternal mortality] is achievable… because we have seen Ethiopia achieve a more than 40 percent reduction in child mortality [among children] under five in the last five years. We have seen sub-Saharan Africa achieve a 39 percent reduction,” said Rajiv Shah, administrator at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: IRIN
Photo: World News Network