June in Uganda: SAFE interns at Ibulanku and Lubira health centers

A group of medical and public health students from the University of Texas recently returned from Uganda where they were working on a variety of projects pertaining to SAFE’s e-Ranger motorcycle ambulance program, which was launched just last summer!


Along with SAFE’s Program Manager Mukalu Medie, the group consisted of SAFE interns Danika Brodak and Rica Mauricio who worked with Lubira health center, as well as Brittany Meyers, Youstina Ishak, and SAFE practicum student Paul Tumbu – the subgroup that worked at Ibulanku health center.


Since the e-Ranger program is already established at Ibulanku, the main goal of the Ibulanku subgroup was to assess the overall effectiveness of the program. The group met with the staff at Ibulanku health center to determine generally how the project is faring. They also gathered delivery and antenatal records from the hospital to gauge both how e-Ranger patient information was being collected by the midwives and to see the raw numbers of how many mothers in labor were being effectively transported by the e-Ranger ambulances.


The group also met with MABEDA drama group to assess how the club is using drama performance to promote the use of the e-Ranger motorcycle ambulances in their community.  Community involvement is absolutely essential to the e-Ranger program, because without the community’s support and active involvement, the project would have never been implemented. This emphasizes how important community is in ensuring the health of mothers and babies and families in general! With this in mind, also meeting with the Village Health Teams was helpful in order to discuss their role in community mobilization relating to the use of the motorcycle ambulances to promote safe deliveries – both of women to the health center and of their babies!


Finally, the group at Ibulanku spoke with a former e-Ranger user who shared her experience utilizing the motorcycle ambulance service and asked her if she would help spread the word to other pregnant women in the community. In following with this encouragement, the team also conducted health education sessions for the pregnant women in the antenatal care clinic and discussed with them how to prepare for a safe delivery.


While the e-Ranger program has been running for a year at Ibulanku health center, the program has not yet been established at Lubira, but the SAFE team was working hard to gain the support of health workers and the community at large so that SAFE can launch the program there and thus make the service available to even more mothers in labor! The Lubira subgroup conducted a meeting during which a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Lubira community health center and the Buyanga sub-county community groups. They also met with the Lubira management committee and the health facility staff to discuss the logistics of launching the program.


Also at Lubira, SAFE coordinated many maternal and child health-related activities including having several groups perform dramas about important health topics. SAFE also provided immunizations and conducted HIV testing and referred individuals to the clinic for treatment. The safe mama kit program was also launched, providing mothers with a package of supplies necessary for a clean and safe birth.

Overall, the June 2012 trip was very productive and a great success! The interns paved a great road for the successive group of interns who just arrived in Uganda! The July interns plan on carrying out refresher training with the traditional birth attendants in obstetric emergency response and referral for complicated cases. They are also currently working to follow up on the work done in June on the process of launching the e-Ranger program at the Lubira health center.


Excellent work done by all the June interns, and stay posted for an update about the July trip soon!

Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report

A new report entitled Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report came out two weeks ago and is the first of its kind. It provides global and regional estimates of preterm birth and illustrates how preterm birth is becoming an increasingly dire problem around the world, with highest rates occurring in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia. According to the report, after pneumonia, preterm birth is now the second leading cause of death for children under five, globally. Even for babies who survive preterm birth, there is a high chance that they will be permanently disabled, which adds an extra burden on to already struggling families.

The report is very informative regarding the problem, but it also suggests a plan of action and looks towards solutions, hopefully which, as the report outlines, will reduce infant deaths caused by preterm birth by 50% by the year 2025.

The goals to realize a solution include:

Prevention:

  • Preconception care package, including family planning (e.g. birth spacing and adolescent friendly services), education and nutrition especially for girls, and STI prevention
  • Antenatal care packages for all women, including screening for and management of STIs and targeted care of women at increased risk of preterm birth
  • Provide education to promote appropriate induction and cesarean 

Care of the preterm baby:

  • Essential and extra newborn care, especially feeding support
  • Neonatal resuscitation
  • Kangaroo Mother care
  • Management of premature babies with complications, especially respiratory distress syndrome and infection
  • Comprehensive neonatal intensive care, where capacity allows

It is wonderful to know that preterm birth is finally being acknowledged as a vitally important issue in need of address and action around the world, particularly in Africa. SAFE has already been working towards solutions of preterm birth, both immediate and longer term, particularly with regards to the antenatal care of preterm babies. As a result of the Light the Night solar panel project implementation, when emergency caesarean sections are required, many health centers around Uganda are now able to provide safer and more effective surgeries without fear of power loss. With this solar powered light, health workers can also provide better antenatal care to preterm infants and their mothers.

Furthermore, through educational sessions and community health fairs, SAFE empowers women’s and men’s groups to be more aware of important neonatal care issues such as good nutrition, sanitation, and immunizations.

SAFE’s motorcycle ambulance program also addresses the issue of surprise preterm labor and birth, by efficiently transporting pregnant mothers in labor to health centers, so that they may get the care, treatment, and maybe even surgery, they need.

Check out the full report by following this link:

http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/preterm_birth_report/en/index.html

Government negligence and women’s rights

Maternal health in Uganda continues to be compromised as a result of a lacking government. As described in the following article, it is not for a dearth of ideas of how to improve the access and quality of maternal and neonatal healthcare; rather, it is the lack of action on these ideas that results in so many preventable deaths.

The article also highlights the fact that many of these deaths happen because there is no light to ensure easy deliveries and safe emergency procedures to deal with complications during childbirth. SAFE is doing as much as we can through the Light the Night program to help eradicate this fundamental problem, but the Ugandan government must also take action to protect women’s rights and the health of mothers and babies.

Check out the article below:

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/04/02/uganda-womens-rights-maternal-health-fall-to-back-line-once-again

Women: Inspiration & Enterprise Symposium!

A big congrats to Board Member Jamie Rosen, who has been selected as a “young champion for women” and invited to attend and speak about SAFE at the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise Symposium. Hosted by Sarah Brown, Arianna Huffington, and Donna Karan on September 19 in New York City, the WIE Symposium will feature over 100 speakers exploring the theme “What it means to be a woman now.” We are stoked that Jamie gets to take SAFE to such an awesome conference–and can’t wait to hear about all the super cool people she will get to meet. Congratulations Jamie! We will be rooting for you!

For more information, please see: http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/WIE/inspiration2011.cfm