Saving Mothers, Giving Life in ZambiaSaving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia is working to improve maternal and newborn health in 16 districts. When a mother dies, her newborn is 10 times more likely to die. In Zambia, the rate of maternal mortality is among the highest in the world with an estimated 1,400 maternal deaths and 13,000 newborn deaths per year. The initiative aims to create safe and high-quality childbirth services for women and their newborns.

The Initiative

Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a $280,000, five-year public-private partnership extending from 2012 to 2017. The initiative was launched in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of the Global Health Initiative and to support achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

The objective of the initiative is to quickly reduce the maternal and newborn mortality rates in Uganda, Zambia, and Nigeria. Saving Mothers, Giving Life brings together national governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and professional associations to aid in reaching the common objective. Key partners include:

  • the governments of Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Norway, and the United States;
  • Merck for Mothers;
  • Every Mother Counts;
  • Project C.U.R.E.; and
  • the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

To reach its goal, Saving Mothers, Giving Life focuses on increasing demand for services, facilitating access to lifesaving care, and strengthening health systems at the district level.

The three primary delays of the initiatives that contribute to maternal and newborn mortality are:

Seeking Care

Local community members have focused on the importance of facility-based maternal and newborn health services in support of women, their male partners, and their family members. Activities have included conducting follow-up visits with pregnant women, educating them, their male partners and family members about budgeting and healthy pregnancies and distributing care planners.

Reaching Care

Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia has appointed local community members to ensure that women receive proper and fair facility-based maternal services. The organization sold vouchers to women to cover transportation costs and developed waiting home models, places where women can stay during the late stages of their pregnancy to ensure they have immediate care.

Receiving Care

The local communities of Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia work to persuade health providers to move to rural areas to practice. To accomplish this, they mobilize and contribute funding and labor for the construction of staff housing.

Results and Impact

Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia quickly saw a positive impact due to the structure of the organization and support of the initiative. Five years into the initiative, Zambia had a 55 percent decrease in the institutional maternal mortality ratio and a 44 percent decrease of stillbirths and newborn deaths in facilities. Nearly 90 percent of women now give birth in a facility, compared to 63 percent at the outset of the initiative. In addition, the number of women who have received treatment to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to their infants has increased by 81 percent.

Although it was only a five-year initiative, due to its success and potential, Saving Mothers, Giving Life has the ability to extend beyond the borders of Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria. It’s organizing principles can serve as a model for other countries to use in similar communities.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr