Tackling maternal mortality in resource-limited settings

By Isabelle Jeanson

Communications Freelancer

June 4, 2024

Despite a drop in maternal mortality rates in Uganda over the past decade, many women still face high risks of losing their lives during childbirth. In 2020, Uganda reported a relatively low maternal mortality rate of 284 per 100,000 live births, compared to Sub-Saharan Africa's highest rate of 1223 women per live births (World Bank, 2020). Although this is a positive trend, each maternal death remains devastating to her family, emphasizing the urgent need for preventive measures.

As a community-focused organization, PICSA has implemented a wide variety of health, education, and livelihood projects. Recognizing the urgent need to save mothers’ lives, PICSA teams recently implemented the Saving Lives at Birth program with Madiro to tackle maternal mortality in the Moro district of Northeastern Uganda.

Thanks to a comprehensive strategy that has included staff training, facilitating access to advanced tools, medical supplies and implementing outreach activities, PICSA has reported a significant decline in maternal mortality rates in the region. The project kicked off in September 2022, and since then, more than 130 midwives, nurses, and clinical officers were trained in newborn resuscitation and in the prevention of hypothermia and infection. Maternal mortality rates decreased from 10 deaths in 2021-2022 to just four in 2022-2023 in the catchment area. Notably, there was a substantial drop in newborn mortality rates, from 32 deaths in 2021 to 19 in 2022, reflecting a remarkable 59% reduction.

Letio Alice Norah, a midwife at one of the health centres explains how the training helped her in her work: 

“I acknowledge the immense benefit of the training as I was able to manage premature twin babies; from resuscitation to referral to Moyo hospital and followed the babies at home. I had never done this before. My confidence level increased and I yearn to manage more complications, to eliminate maternal and newborn mortality in my community.”

The Saving Lives at Birth program also succeeded in encouraging women to deliver in healthcare facilities. From September 2022 to August 2023, a total of 4914 women delivered their babies in 29 medical facilities, surpassing the initial target by 142%. Of these deliveries, 228 infants were saved thanks to the Helping Babies Breathe training provided by PICSA teams.

PICSA also provided training to 60 health workers on various protocols, including the management of postpartum haemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal death; and the special care of premature newborns.

“I delivered a premature baby and helped the mother to keep the baby skin to skin in a warm room. This was easier for the mother, who bonded and fed her infant. This is so much better compared to the expensive incubators where the baby is separated from the mother for most of the time. We had ignored the importance of this technique learnt from college, so this training was so timely!” explains midwife Fiona Maliama.

The capacity-building training led by PICSA teams has played a vital role in empowering medical staff with the right tools and knowledge to ensure the safe delivery of babies. This remarkable program is a game-changer, benefiting not just mothers and babies, but also their families and broader communities.

Ubuntu team members and Isabella in Ubuntu's food security field

*Direction for the implementation of this project was led by KBF Canada

About the author

By Isabelle Jeanson

Communications Freelancer

A passionate humanitarian, Isabelle has worked in Canada and Europe, and in over a dozen countries around the world as a humanitarian field worker. Her professional parcours includes a background in journalism, emergency management in highly insecure contexts, crisis incident management and communications leadership roles. She has an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on peacebuilding, leadership, and communications.

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