Sharing Project Results Boosts Commitment to Save Lives
Last month in Tanzania we hosted several meetings with policy makers, health care providers, and women to share the results of our collaborative project with the local Ifakara Health Institute and the Bixby Center at UC Berkeley introducing distribution of misoprostol tablets to pregnant women during prenatal care visits. Since nearly all women in Tanzania (94%) receive prenatal care from a health professional at least once during pregnancy yet over half (53%) of deliveries take place at home, the project set out to prove that reaching pregnant women during pregnancy could be a key strategy to increasing protection from life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) in the most vulnerable and hard to reach populations.
The 12-month project, conducted in four rural districts in Tanzania, focused on raising community awareness and distributing misoprostol tablets to pregnant women during their prenatal visits. With the tagline, “plan early for a safe delivery”, the project utilized radio, printed materials, and one-on-one interaction to spread safe delivery and PPH prevention messages. During prenatal visits, health providers educated women on the life-saving potential of “miso” tablets. VSI and our partners are encouraged by the successful results of the project. Among the more than 6,500 women we interviewed after delivery, 98% said they would recommend misoprostol to a friend. Of women who took the tablets home after their prenatal visit and delivered at home, 96% said they used the misoprostol tablets and 98% took it correctly—this is important information for policy makers to know as they consider how to roll-out the project across the country.
As we shared the project findings last month at a national meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and at community meetings in the four participating districts, enthusiasm for misoprostol and commitment to ensure its availability both within and outside of Tanzania was unwavering. The Director of Preventive Services from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said in front of nearly 100 people, “We continue to make plans to for this rollout and call upon partners to join the Ministry’s efforts. The Ministry of Health is fully committed to this endeavor as one of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” Policy makers from neighboring countries in attendance were energized by the findings and shared, “If Tanzania can do this, so can we!”
Even with the rallying support from the government, perhaps the most gratifying outcome of our meetings was hearing directly from the mothers and front-line providers when visiting the district health centers in rural Tanzania. Within VSI we are committed to sharing the results of our work with the women and providers in the rural districts who so graciously volunteered their time to participate. There, we met dozens of women who shared their stories of childbirth and the promising effects of misoprostol. Monaisha and her daughter, Ramla, (in attached photo) are from Ulanga district. Monaisha was fortunate to deliver at a health facility where she was given miso to prevent PPH, but she says that most of the women in her community cannot get to a facility because of the great distance and challenges finding transportation. If wait too long, they do not make it in time. “Many mothers I know deliver at home. If a woman encounters bleeding, there will be no one to help her”.
As we approach Mother’s Day, we would like to extend our deepest thanks for your support through Global Giving in making childbirth safer for mothers like Monaisha. Please consider continuing your support by joining our “I am a mother” campaign and giving through Global Giving or visiting us online to learn how to get involved – www.vsinnovations.org/mothers.
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Technical Advisor, Communications and Development