Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia)

The BKFA works with organisations and communities to provide a clean birthing environment for women in developing countries in order to reduce the incidence of infant and maternal mortality. We respect peoples' dignity and values and work according to principles of basic human rights. We raise awareness, provide support and resources and act as a catalyst for the creation of birth attendant training programmes and community development projects.
Mar 26, 2015

Remarkable Progress in Ethiopia

Recent training in the Afar Desert funded by the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia) and run by the Afar Pastoral Development Association (APDA) has achieved outstanding results. In a one year a comprehensive programme, directed by the indefatigable Valerie Browning in 10 kebeles (neighbourhoods) of Dullassa, has empowered whole communities to stop harmful practices affecting females and leading to an improvement in their reproductive health. 

Steeped in illiteracy these communities clung to traditional practices that harmed birthing mothers leading to maternal and newborn death and injury Women extension workers along with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) were trained and deployed as agents of change. They led guided discussions designed to improve reproductive health and to stop FGM (genital mutilation), early marriage and marriage by force. 19,740 women and girls and their families were taught life skills in health, hygiene and nutrition. 13,200 pastoralist women and their families gained awareness and assistance in stopping harmful practices and 960 mothers achieved a safer and cleaner birth by using a delivery set or, as we know it, a birthing kit.

Those affected by the harmful practices were assisted, protected and counselled, while those who performed the practices were advised and reminded that the government can prosecute them. The APDA also employed three women to assemble a total of 5,000 birthing sets or birthing kits in their field office. They were distributed to the trained TBAs in the program.

All of this was achieved despite challenges which included mediating with neighbouring communities, flooding rains and convincing sceptical mothers that a trained TBA is better than giving birth with no assistance at all. 

The whole program, created from the experience and earlier successes of Valerie Browning and the APDA, has highlighted the enormous value of training and birthing kits in this challenging desert environment.

Dec 17, 2014

Educating traditional midwives is saving lives

The entire community gathers to learn how to help
The entire community gathers to learn how to help

Birthing kits and training in Tamil Nadu

When Dalit (untouchable) women in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu give birth they must select one of two risky choices. They can either have their baby at home or go to a government hospital.  At home this will probably mean giving birth on a dirt floor in a dwelling with no running water.  The trip to hospital is little safer.  Undersupply or corruption have left the hospitals with huge infection risks in the form of dirty mattresses, unclean scalpels, no gloves, soap or clean ties. 

The Birthing Kit Foundation of Australia (BKFA) supplies birthing kits to and has educated over 1,000 traditional birth attendants in Tamil Nadu. Each one now takes a kit along for every birth she attends, whether it is for use at home or as a back-up when she accompanies a mother in a government facility.  A traditional birth attendant armed with a birthing kit can be a life saver wherever a birth takes place.

Education programs in Tamil Nadu, funded by the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia), make sure more than just the traditional birth attendants get the message.  Husbands and caretakers get involved and find out how they can play a part in a clean, safe birth or act as a back-up if a woman does need hospital support.  Adolescent girls are also being educated on the health challenges they face when they become mothers.  For the first time whole communities in this state now understand the importance of a clean, safe and healthy birthing environment.

Sep 11, 2014

Childbirth customs in Ethiopia are killing women

A TBA who stopped female genital circumcision
A TBA who stopped female genital circumcision

Childbirth customs embedded in the Afar culture in Ethiopia are killing their women.

With your help we are opening the eyes of the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) and for the first time in their lives many are seeing how their traditional customs were causing great pain with many of their women and babies dying unnecessarily.

Thank you for making our training program a success.

In terms of their awareness on health, well-being and in particular maternal health, few of them view life any differently than their ancient predecessors.

The Dullassa community has a total population of nearly 21,000. They are agro-pastoralists and around 70% pastoralists. Their land is the foot-hills of the southern Ethiopian Highlands. The region is inaccessible during the rainy season and in a country with limited health and education capacity the communities are isolated and least assisted. Through a literacy program the TBAs and women are becoming empowered to understand why they must stop their harmful birthing practices.

The BKFA is half way through it latest literacy and training program in Dullassa. Our partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association’s (APDA), has reported showing that 4270 birthing kits have been made and distributed and 8010 people have had counselling over many topics from HIV prevention, health, hygiene, sanitation, stopping female genital mutilation, pre and post natal visits and childbirth.

40 TBAs have received annual refresher training asserting that they have stopped 6 harmful practices that injure in the birthing process and that they are performing clean deliveries as well as referring mothers at risk.

There is an earnest need to reach out to more in the community that the awareness can be put into agreed community practice to act for the well-being of the mother and the child. APDA's method of approach is continual relationship with the community through trained community members who daily perform awareness, counselling, Afar literacy teaching along with a community dialogue that is led through the trained community religious and clan leadership. This has achieved communities that have stopped the horrific practice of female genital infibulations and have reverted to a 'lesser' practice of removing part of the clitoris. The former practice actually seals the vagina so it is a minute opening and covers the urethra so that urine is passed with great difficulty leaving the female in constant urinary retention, difficulty in passing menstrual blood and fear of marriage and intercourse.

The other practices that harm in the birthing process include closing the mother's infibulation scar after the birth; preventing her from consuming more than a minimal water and food in labor for fear of 'tipping this on the baby's head' in belief that the uterus and the bladder join; cutting the pulsating cord transversely once the baby has been born to bleed the mother as much as possible; not breast-feeding until 24 to 72 hours after the birth and not washing the mother and babe after the initial wash for another 7 days until the celebration of a slaughter of a goat. The dangers here are clearly both life-threatening and debilitating for mother and baby.

Then through aware and trained traditional birth attendants; women extension workers who mentor them as well as keep constant awareness in the community; literacy that empowers all stakeholders to lift themselves out of mystical thinking to reality and the local religious leaders directing dialogue in the community, change is emerging.

For Afar women childbirth was especially dangerous.

Thank you for making it much safer for a few communities. Your continued donations will help many more Afar women and babies.

Afar girls
Afar girls
An Afar grandmother with her grandchild
An Afar grandmother with her grandchild

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