Saving Kenyan Mothers Lives at the Community Level


As the year comes to a close, Team VSI is busy wrapping up the year-end activities and reflecting on the progress and impact of our work in 2011.

Our work in Kenya has been highlighted with stories of women and providers who have made a difference to our work.  They are the example of how simple and innovative medical solutions can make an everlasting impact on families and entire communities.  This year we met two mothers, Jacinta and Irene, who are such examples.  Each mother has her own story of childbirth; each had to overcome her own obstacle.  Irene delivered twins by herself, on the floor of her home. Jacinta, while walking to nearest facility miles away, delivered her baby boy on the side of the road.  But luckily, both women had hope for a safer childbirth. As part of VSI’s program in Kenya, three misoprostol tablets were given to Irene and Jacinta during a prenatal counseling visit.  This meant that both mothers were protected against deadly hemorrhaging that kills an estimated 2,500 mothers each year.   

As we look ahead to 2012 we promise to stay focused on reaching women where they are.  With your support, we will continue to bring health solutions like misoprostol tablets to more hard-to-reach communities to make pregnancy and childbirth safer.  Your partnership in our efforts to improve the lives of women in places where the need is greatest means a lot to us.  We hope you will consider renewing your valued contribution. Together we are stronger and can achieve more.

For more information on VSI, read our recently published Biennial Report, covering programmatic activity and achievements during 2009-2010.  The Report encapsulates the mission-driven work of our organization to improve women’s health by increasing access – access to health technologies and essential care.

Jacinta and Joseph
Jacinta and Joseph

While visiting our program sites in Kenya, the VSI team recently had the opportunity to meet many mothers and health care providers reached in our safe motherhood program.  Of all of the moving stories we heard, Jacinta’s struck a chord, as her experience speaks to the true importance of our work to ensure women have misoprostol tablets wherever they deliver. 

Jacinta held baby Joseph and smiled softly into the camera as we asked her about her experience with misoprostol – the medicine that saved her life.  Without misoprostol, she could have died.  The majority of women in her community deliver their babies at home, often without assistance, but Jacinta was determined to make it to the clinic.  After feeling the first labor pains, she summoned the community health worker in her village and together they set out to the nearest clinic, miles away from her home. Joseph was in more of a hurry, and her labor progressed while she was still en route.  Jacinta had received misoprostol and instruction on how to use them at prenatal counseling, and so there on the roadside, immediately after delivery, she took her three tablets.  With the help of misoprostol she did not suffer from excessive bleeding and was able to gather the strength to get back on the road to seek out postnatal care for her baby boy. She shared, “I have seen the goodness of miso.”

Rural women like Jacinta know the dangers of childbirth more keenly than anyone.  In Kenya, 1 in 38 women will die from maternal causes, and only 44% of births are attended by a skilled health care provider.  This means more women are dying because they give birth alone, without support or medicines.  Your contribution allows VSI to provide needed support to rural women and to save the lives of mothers like Jacinta in Kenyan communities.


To meet another inspirational Kenyan mother, watch Irene’s story:



Agnes, Mother from Kitui District, Age 23
Agnes, Mother from Kitui District, Age 23

On Wednesday, June 15th, every donation made to this project will be matched by Global Giving by 30%.  Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference to mothers in Kenya.  Every 90 seconds a mother dies during pregnancy or childbirth, and 99% of these deaths take place in developing countries where lack of access to basic medicines and services are taking mothers from their children.

VSI is a nonprofit organization committed to improving women’s health in developing countries by creating access to life-saving and affordable health solutions for all.  Make your dollar stretch by giving a gift on Wednesday and supply life-saving medicines to 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 our dedication to making maternal health an equal right no matter where you live.


Mother and Son from our Kenyan Program
Mother and Son from our Kenyan Program

Empowering Midwives to Save Lives

In Kenya complications related to pregnancy and child birth are among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality.  Targeting maternal health interventions to reach those women who have difficulty accessing health care is a high priority in Kenya given the gross disparities in the ability for the majority rural population to reach a health facility.

To reduce postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) cases for women who are unable to reach a facility to deliver, VSI teamed up with a Nairobi based nonprofit, Organization for Health Education Research Service (OHERS), on a project aimed to reduce the number of women dying due to excessive bleeding at home births by distributing misoprostol tablets through community midwives who conduct home deliveries.  Misoprostol (or "miso") is an easy-to-use generic tablet that is safe, affordable and practical in a village setting, and it has tremendous lifesaving effects.  When a mother takes three tablets immediately after delivery, it can greatly improve her chances of surviving childbirth from hemorrhage. 

Focused in the rural communities of the Emuhaya district, objectives of this collaborative project are to (1) ensure community midwives and pharmacists have access to misoprostol, (2) that they are trained on its use and benefits for the management of PPH and (3) are educated on the dangers of PPH in home settings.   Since the project commencement in November, we’re delighted to share that community midwives are reporting a monthly increase in number of deliveries which means more women are coming to them for services, perhaps motivated the benefit of misoprostol.  Trained by a VSI coordinator, community midwives were educated on the use of misoprostol during home deliveries and in clinics where oxytocin is not available.  To date, the project has trained and sensitized over 30 community midwives and 10 local pharmacists who also maintain a stock of misoprostol to create sustainability of the project.

As we approach Mother’s Day, we would like to extend our deepest thanks for support through Global Giving in making childbirth safer for mothers.  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 –


This Wednesday, March 16th, Global Giving is matching all online donations at 30%. Here are ten reasons why you should consider supporting our project, “Saving Kenyan Mothers Lives at the Community Level”:

  1. Investing in a mother’s health is an investment in her children, family and community.
  2. In Kenya, women have a 1 in 38 lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth; when a newborn loses her mother, the likelihood she will reach her first birthday is diminished.
  3. Excessive bleeding due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death in developing countries– a condition that is preventable.
  4. Due to the remote, rural countryside, most women deliver a home.
  5. VSI is helping women where they are at the village level.
  6. Our project ensures mothers and frontline providers have access to generic tablets that have incredible life-saving effects in the management of excessive bleeding. 
  7. The cost of a preventive dose is less than a dollar. 
  8. We have empowered and trained thousands of frontline health care providers on its use and benefits.
  9. By giving through VSI this Wednesday your dollar will go further in helping women most in need.
  10. You are helping to save a life during childbirth and pregnancy.

We believe that no matter where women live, they deserve equal access to life-saving medicine and the opportunity for a safe pregnancy and childbirth as part of their basic human rights.  Thank you for your consideration this Wednesday. We deeply appreciate the support of those who share our commitment to saving mothers' lives in Kenya.


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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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Project Leader

Colleen O'Connor

Anaheim, CA United States

Where is this project located?