After working in Nigeria for several years, where women have a 1 in 23 lifetime risk of dying from maternal causes, we are elated to report that we have accomplished our goal of making life-saving tablets, misoprostol, available to traditional midwives and mothers who are most at risk of dying of excessive bleeding or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). This summary will serve as our final project report.
VSI galvanized local leaders and organizations around the need for sustainable improvements in maternal health. VSI collaborated with numerous partners in Nigeria to:
Our project also generated needed evidence to inform national policy. In 2006, Nigeria became the first country in the world to approve and register misoprostol tablets for the prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage. The inclusion of misoprostol in the country's official clinical guidelines was a fundamental step towards ensuring its use at the facility level to control excessive bleeding after childbirth. Last month, Nigeria had another monumental first. Guidelines allowing misoprostol to be used at the community level were approved -- marking the first country to allow misoprostol to be used at the community level. This accomplishment grew out of our active involvement and research, specifically a successful operations research project conducted by VSI and partners at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and the Bixby Center at UC Berkeley.
The success of our Nigerian project would not have been possible without the kindness, generosity and commitment of our Global Giving donors. Your dedication to making maternal health an equal right no matter where women live helped us keep fighting for the reduction of unnecessary maternal deaths. The impact of having misoprostol available on the village-level is literally saving lives and the Nigerian people are gracious and enthusiast about misoprostol life-saving effects. Many mothers over the years have shared their stories and fears of bleeding to-death. Now we have a “tablet that saves the lives of our mothers, sisters and wives” as one village elder shared with us. Another village elder wrote a song about misoprostol impact in the community.
We encourage you to stay involved in our efforts to make childbirth safe for mothers in developing countries. We hope you consider supporting our other Global Giving projects that work to prevent mothers dying in childbirth in Tanzania, Ethiopia and, coming soon to Global Giving, Mozambique. We also invite you to stay in touch by visiting our website at www.vsinnovations.org and joining our email list.
Thank you again for helping us create sustainable change in Nigeria, enabling the government and other local NGOs to carry on supporting women with misoprostol in their country. We could not have done it with you!
With 94% of Ethiopian women giving birth at home, we continue to educate and train frontline providers like midwives, health workers, traditional birth attendants – even the mothers themselves – on the life saving effects of misoprostol tablets. By training those working at the village level, we are helping to ensure that mothers have the chance to survive childbirth, an often frightening experience when medical care and medicine is scarce.
Meet Aynalem (pictured) who is a health extension worker deployed to rural communities by the government to provide primary health care. Aynalem is one of the many health extension workers (HEWs) trained by VSI on the use and benefits of misoprostol. At the mere age of 24, Aynalem has already assisted in over 80 home deliveries, all made safer with misoprostol tablets.
Prior to this project, health workers faced many challenges in home deliveries due to minimal supplies and training. Now they are equipped with a simple-to-use tablet and the knowledge on how to use it for the management of postpartum hemorrhage, the leading killer amongst women. Sometimes with no more than a 10th-grade education themselves, health extension workers not only educate women at rural health posts about the use of misoprostol and a host of other important preventative health measures, but they also travel from home to home providing misoprostol tablets to delivering mothers. These young women provide critical care and services where there otherwise would be none.
Since June 2010, we have trained over 1100 health extension workers, including many in new regions of the country like Somali, Afar, and B. Gamuz in our program to prevent bleeding after delivery. By integrating training on misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage into regular trainings and curricula, we are contributing to a sustainable improvement in knowledge about a life-saving drug among the men and women who serve families across Ethiopia.
We are excited about our progress in equipping frontline workers with misoprostol, and deeply appreciate the support we receive from donors committed to reducing unnecessary maternal deaths.
Women who reside in rural areas in Africa are not privy to western conveniences like a health clinic, a doctor or nurse, or even electricity. Many mothers deliver their babies at home with the help of a family member or midwife. But the risk of complications, specifically hemorrhaging which is the leading cause of death, is high. Nigerian women unfortunately have a 1 in 18 lifetime risk of dying from maternal causes. Their deaths are unacceptable and preventable.
A solution exists that comes in the form of a simple, affordable and easy-to-use tablet called misoprostol. When a mother takes three life-saving tablets immediately after the baby is born, it can effectively prevent excessive bleeding. A preventative dose is amazingly low in Nigeria – $1.00.
For essentially pennies, a mother’s life can be saved. Thousands of women's lives can be spared by making misoprostol available through local businesses in rural Nigeria and by training frontline providers like midwives, nurses, traditional birth attendants -even the mothers themselves - to use these tablets.
In the next nine days, VSI has an opportunity to increase our impact. Global Giving is launching a generous matching campaign this Tuesday, October 12th which will run through the following Thursday, October 21st. Every donation made to this project will be matched by Global Giving. Make your dollar, which is the cost of this life-saving medicine, stretch by giving a gift through VSI to support our mission and help us reach the women most in need.
No matter where you live pregnancy and childbirth should be a cherished and joyous experience, not one of fear. Thank you to our committed donors who share this belief and our dedication to making maternal health an equal right no matter where you live.