From May to July of 2009, Olivia Chang, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Global Health Center in collaboration with Saving Mothers, traveled to Tanzania to launch Saving Mothers’ birthing kit initiative in Tanzania. Olivia writes:
“The research and service site is in the village of Nyakagoyagoye in the district of Karagwe in Northwestern Tanzania. Nyakagoyagoye is a village of 1300 households. Most of the children were born in the home, as access to dispensaries and hospitals is a huge barrier. The closest dispensary is 1 hr by foot and the nearest regional hospital is 4 hr by foot. Although it is recommended to give birth in health facilities, the location of Nyakagoyagoye does not always allow for adequate time and funds to reach a health facility. In other words, the TBAs play an integral role within this community as their services are frequently needed.
36 traditional birth attendants, wakunga (in Swahili), were recruited from the village. The ages of TBAs’ ranged from early 40’s to late 80’s, and amongst them, the years of experience ranged from 1 to 50 years. During the training sessions, the TBAs were first trained to understand the purpose of individual items in the birthing kits. Then, the TBAs were trained to utilize the content of the birthing kits in the correct order and for the right purpose. The notion of early recognition of danger signs, such as hemorrhages, prolonged labor and/or convulsions, were introduced as well as the importance of early referral. Lastly, the transmission of HIV/AIDS and self-protection for the TBAs during deliveries was emphasized. Overall, all of the education topics were enforced with a test, which provided the opportunity to teach, again, at a one-by-one basis, for concepts that were misunderstood.”
Saving Mothers hopes to replicate the success of the birthing kit initiative in Tanzania in several other locations including Guatemala where we are currently building a comprehensive women’s health program.