In Zambia and Uganda, Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a public-private partnership founded by the USAID and put into action by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2012. Saving Mothers, Giving Life has been a key factor in reducing the overwhelming, preventable problem of maternal mortality rates in Zambia and Uganda. The maternal mortality rates in these countries are some of the highest in the world but thankfully, these rates have declined since 2007.
The Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) reported that maternal mortality rates were around 591 deaths for every 100,000 live births, and neonatal mortality rates were around 34 deaths for every 1000 births.
Many of the causes for these maternal deaths stem from a lack of knowledgeable midwives, a scarce quantity of necessary equipment, poor referral systems and precarious accessibility to lifesaving care.
For example, USAID’s Senior Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor and the U.S. Government lead for Saving Mothers, Giving Life Claudia Morrissey Conlon states that “the nearest hospital [for most Zambian citizens] is 60 kilometers away—40 of them over a rough gravel road. Lacking a cell tower, health center staff would walk or ride 27 kilometers in order to call for an ambulance.
Saving Mothers, Giving Life strives to reduce maternal mortality and neonatal deaths by improving local health systems at a district level, and adding trained midwives who can deliver babies and simultaneously treat the complications that can occur during the delicate process of childbirth.
This preventative initiative was originally launched in four of Uganda’s and Zambia’s districts and has procured tremendous results in both countries. Both Uganda and Zambia saw their maternal mortality rates decrease by thirty-five percent in just one calendar year.
This quick and inspiring statistical turn allowed the program to heavily expand in 2014, adding twelve more districts in Zambia and six in Uganda. The 2015 mid-initiative report stated that “maternal deaths have decreased by 41 percent—not just among women who delivered in a facility, but among the districts’ entire population.”
Saving Mothers, Giving Life allowed the Kabarole District in Zambia to create a Demand Creation Committee that informs women on the advantages of delivering their babies in established health facilities.
The Kabarole District uses its health facilities and local radio stations to educate the public on family planning and prenatal care visits. Thanks to these additional efforts that have allowed local organizations’ to combine forces, “nearly 90 percent of women are now giving birth in a facility, compared to 63 percent at the outset of the initiative.”
Saving Mothers, Giving Life has been so incredibly successful since the program’s implementation in 2012 that the initiative has changed many societal norms regarding childbirth in these countries. The initiative is already expanding to countries like Nigeria and serves as a model for other countries to follow suit.
Since Saving Mothers, Giving Life can be sustained for the long term, countries are gaining the tools to be able to take care of themselves and effectively treat the many problems that can occur during childbirth.
Such capabilities are extremely pertinent if countries like Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria want to become self-sustaining. These countries have made extraordinary strides in healthcare and as a result, their future looks more promising than ever.
– Terry J. Halloran