Pigmies are the most impoverished of all communities in DR Congo. Life is very hard. They live in remote areas mainly in Congo mountains and rainforest, in brush or dirt huts with dirt floors and grass as a blanket.
Dr Luc Mulimbalimba our partner from Mission in Health Care and Development chose these very poor communities for our recent training program on maternal health and safe, clean birthing practice to improve health and reduce preventable infections during birth which is a major cause of death and disability. The two communities of Mulenge and Lemera each received training for 100 Pigmie Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA’s) over 3 days.
The difficulties of running these seminars were significant but we are very lucky to have Dr. Luc as our partner, who only thinks about how to make things work! Over 30 porters had to carry all the food, bedding, birthing kits and educational equipment. Months ahead Dr Luc talked to the communities and explained the importance of the training, locating 100 traditional birth attendants and organising for them to gather for the training.
Dr. Luc said:
“It took us two days to reach Mulenge because there are no roads so we had to climb up and down the mountains and valleys to reach there. It is still the rainy season here in DRCongo so it was not very easy for us to reach Mulenge. I visited some of their houses.They live in extremely small houses,sleeping on logs of trees and small leaves, Their beds are made of the logs are less than a metre in size.They have no occupation except ploughing for other people.They leave their houses at 6:00am and return at 6:00pm and they are only paid 1 USD.They live at the high mountains of the Mitumba chain of mountains and are near a big forest that is also a national reserve park called Itombwe.They eat meat together with Ugali made by cassava flour.They are leading very difficult lives that I am not even able to write on email."
"We organised a three day traditional midwifery seminar for them and we gave each participant a gift of African cloth and 20 birthing kits.They ate very well and they enjoyed very much."
"After Mulenge we moved on to Lemera where there are roads but not good and more often we had to get out of the vehicle and push it. By good luck we were given security by the government of DRCongo and they were very helpful in leading and also pushing the vehicle. The government gave us a pick up that also assisted us to carry some of the kits and material. It was not easy but we thank God very much because we reached Lemera very well.”
There were also some highlights as Dr. Luc reported:
“The best thing was that while at Mulenge we were lucky to help two expectant pigmee women to give birth by the use of the locally made birthing kits.We have attached the photos of the two newly born babies and also photos of the making of the birthing kits at the Luvungi hospital.Again we are so grateful to the Birthing Kit Foundation for supporting us. We appreciate so much your love,care and support.”
In DR Congo Pigmie communities poverty and lack of educational opportunities are endemic. There is no education or health system. Some cultural practices also create health issues, which is why health promotion projects like this are so important to raise awareness of these issues. For example, most have never washed. There is plenty of water in the many rivers surrounding them but it is culturally not normal to wash. Infections, disease and death are rampant in their communities. When you have never learned about health, nutrition and hygiene the impact of this knowledge changes the community forever. Our programs which focus on maternal health and benefit the women and babies also have an extended impact for the whole Pigmie communities in DR Congo.
Both seminars were successful with the TBAs attending and enjoying their learning. Over 4000 birthing kits were given out at the seminars.Evaluation activities are being undertaken to assess the programs effectiveness and impact including a follow up evaluation with happen in 3 months to ascertain how they have applied the training and any further support required.
10% of the total global deaths of under 5 years old is in Nigeria. This is a country that needs your help.
Your donations are supporting our midwifery programs that give lifesaving information in a country with 1 million children dying under 5 annually. The Maternal Mortality Ratio in Nigeria is 840 : 100,000 and as mentioned previously the provision of birthing kits addresses only one small aspect of what is killing the women and babies. To really have a sustainable solution in a community they need to be educated about all other aspects of health, hygiene, nutrition and midwifery.
Your donation has helped the Birthing Kit Foundation work with Sweet Mother International(SMI) to distribute its clean birthing kits along with local health training programs. In April this year SMI distributed 400 birthing kits at a seminar. They worked in collaboration with Lafia Hospital Apata Ibadan. Marton of Lafia Hospital is a community health worker of 23 years, who sensitised the 40 community birth attendants to the objectives and benefits of the kits. After the training each woman is given 7 kits to start with, knowing they can get top ups when needed as the supply is ongoing.
Another similar program was held at the Primary Health Care Centre Byazhin, Bwari Area council FCT Abuja in Nigeria. Here SMI worked with the Citizens Health Education and Development Initiative to hold its health training program. Many guests were at the opening of the program including the village heads of the 10 communities in Byazhin, nurses, TBA representatives and many pregnant and nursing mothers. Here the message is for the women to give birth at the hospital or clinic, however, if it is impossible to get the birthing mother to a clinic then a birthing kit supplies the basics for their clean birth. They have found that many deaths can be avoided by education and directing the pregnant mothers to the hospital or clinic with plenty of time. Much of the training is on prevention of malaria, prevention of HIV, hygiene, nutrition and responsible pregnancies and contraception.
We also partner with Rotary International, where 4,700 birthing kits were handed to the polio campaign coordinators for distribution within the northern states of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Borno as well as the southern state of Imo. These birthing kits were distributed in November and December 2012 to birth attendants in rural areas. 3,000 birthing kits were also distributed in April 2013 to the 20 selected hospitals participating in the Maternal and Child Health Project. These birthing kits are stored in the health facilities and will be distributed to Skilled Birth Attendants in the surrounding communities when they are trained by project midwives.
As Nigeria is such a high risk country for maternal and child health it will continue to be a priority country for the foundation.
Success!!! 3 organisations in Ethiopia are now make their own birthing kits, while providing an income for disadvantaged women.
Over 30,000 birthing kits were made locally in Ethiopia.
The program targets impoverished women who earn an income while assembling kits so as to become more independent.
A recent monitoring visit in November 2012 by two BKFA directors reinforced the success of this program that spreads across Ethiopia to the Afar, Tigray and central regions.
Thank you for making it possible for women in these regions to look after their own women and babies – sustainability is being achieved.
Desta Mender is an extension of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. It is where women with untreatable fistulas from severe childbirth injury, live in beautiful surroundings and now call home. The production of their 10,000 kits was part of the re-integration program for 5 women who were each paid 5000 Birr. They formed the “Birthing Kit Club” with the aim to make them financially independent. As the project coordinator writes “we have learnt that they are waiting for the second phase with bated breath”
At Abraham’s Oasis in Tigray region there is one qualified nurse and one vulnerable woman, who are assembling the kits and being paid 350 Birr per month. They are employing an extra helper to finish the making of their 10,000 kits in time.
In the Afar region Valerie Browning through the Afar Pastoralist Development Association organised for 10,000 kits to be made. Similarly local people were employed to make the kits. To accompany this there was also extra training of the Health Extension Workers with 73 from 36 kabelles attending a 1 day course – again funded by the BKFA.
The Foundation again thanks its supporters who have enabled us to initiate early sustainability through 3 partner organisations to large sections of Ethiopia.
Thank you for helping the Pigmies who are the poorest and most disadvantaged people in DR Congo. The life of a Pigmie woman is difficult, with marriage often at 13, and they are the main workers in the family, carrying heavy loads on their backs from an early age. Their home of North Kivu Province is very remote with war still a constant in their lives.
The Pigmie people are nomadic people with illiteracy at 99% as they believe school is a waste of time. Basic hygiene is non existant with 99% of births are at home.
Thank you for helping to fund the midwifery, health, hygiene and nutrition training seminar. It ran for 3 days with 100 traditional midwives from the 10 villages of Kasenyi, Bushara, Bukumu, Bugeregere, Byungo, Karubamba, Muja, Karungu, Kanyati and Mutaho in North Kivu province being the recipients.
These communities are so remote that the trainers had to travel 400 kms to Goma the venue for the seminar. The Pigmies themselves were transported up to 70 km by motor bike to the venue. This is a region that is still at war and soldiers accompanied the trainers and the women for their safety.
Dr Luc Mulimbalimba Masururu on an earlier visit had observed that hygiene was non existant, they birthed onto leaves, used sharper leaves to cut the umbilical cord or else repeatedly used a dirty blade for several deliveries, and there was no hand washing. The people sleep on leaves in rudimentary huts with dirt floors. They are lucky to have one blanket. They go for months without washing and smell offensively. They have skin diseases and infections purely from the poor personal hygiene.
The hotel they were booked into for the seminar, refused their accommodation as they were so dirty and smelly that other patrons at the venue would have left. Dr Luc fortunately found alternative accommodation at short notice.
The first day of the seminar was on hygiene and Dr Luc was thrilled when they all came the next day bathed and clean. There is no lack of water in DR Congo as there are many rivers, they just had no idea that bathing was necessary or beneficial to their health.
2000 birthing kits were made at Luvungi Hospital, DR Congo, with the contents being locally sourced and 2000 kits came from Australia. Each birth attendant left with 40 kits.
Dr Luc established midwifery clubs so the birth attendants could meet monthly to reinforce their lessons learned. It is an opportunity for fellowship and exchanging of experiences. There was so much learned at the seminar, however, being illiterate they could not read the information again, so the midwifery clubs are important reinforcement opportunities.
The seminar was so successful that Dr Luc is looking at holding another one next year.
Thank you to our supporters who helped fund 200 women in Tamilnadu State being trained in basic maternal and infant health. Women trained came from 100 villages in 3 regions, Chidambaram (40 villages), Kattumannarkoil (40 villages) and Viruthachalam (20 villages). The last training made 200 volunteers and midwives aware of the safe delivery, referral services and the use of birthing kits. They also stay with the new mothers for 1-2 hours after delivery and visit for 5-10 days. Now more women are seeking immunization and antenatal advice. It's basic health, and can save lives!
Poor women get no basic health education and there are almost no facilities for poor women giving birth. Where there are health options women often do not take them out of ignorance and fear. Basic training and the provision of birthing kits to provide a clean birthing environment for women giving birth at home is a great way to make changes at a grass roots level.
A basic health training programme trains birth attendants in all aspects of maternal and infant health and provides a support service to birthing mothers, making sure they have help in the early days of their new arrival. They also encourage immunization and antenatal checks.
Elements of the training get embedded gradually into the community. Once a birth attendant uses a birthing kit and sees the clean environment it creates she will never attend a birth without one. It is her encouragement to use immunization services and antenatal check ups that also leave a permanent message in the minds of the mothers of the area.
Mrs A Victoria, President SWEAD was "Thrilled with the training in the area. Since the training no women and only one baby have died. It is a huge improvement."
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