Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women

by Kupona Foundation
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Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Make Motherhood Safe for Tanzanian Women
Betsy (right) visiting The Mabinti Centre
Betsy (right) visiting The Mabinti Centre

A guest post by Betsy Zink, Kupona Board of Directors.

“They say you can’t understand someone’s life until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”

This past October, I was privileged to do just that. As a new member of Kupona Foundation’s Board of Directors, I made my first trip to visit Kupona’s partner in Tanzania, CCBRT. In addition to visiting CCBRT’s campus in Dar es Salaam, I visited CCBRT’s clinic in Moshi to learn more about the community based rehabilitation work happening in that region.

On my first day at CCBRT’s Disability Hospital in Dar, I was struck by the devotion of the medical staff and hospital administration. It was inspiring to hear how they articulated their sense of purpose as healthcare providers. It also was clear to me that Kupona and CCBRT support a critical piece of the Tanzanian healthcare system.

On each of the wards, patients receiving treatments for obstetric fistula, orthopedic conditions, and congenital and visual impairments conveyed the same thing: they had no other means of receiving high quality disability or rehabilitative healthcare, and they rely on the services we provide. A similar sentiment was expressed when I visited CCBRT’s maternal healthcare capacity building sites and met doctors and nurses who are being trained and mentored to provide high quality, life saving maternal healthcare. They are so grateful for the support they are receiving and know that it is improving the entire Tanzanian healthcare system when they can better serve the people who are most in need.

And it was the people most in need that I was now seeking.
As Kupona’s staff had shared with me, we’ve had several partners refer to CCBRT as one of the “best run hospitals in Africa.” Walking through the halls of the clean, organized CCBRT facilities, I understood why. I’d seen patients in this comfortable environment, but wondered, “where are our patients coming from”? Answering that question directed the rest of my personal travel time in Tanzania as I tried to walk in the footsteps - if just for a short while - of those we serve. I plunked myself in a simple lodge outside of Arusha and vowed to “live locally” for the week.

Each day I set off on foot, with minimal shillings and a small backpack, and headed away from the nearest road to a local village. I spoke with shop owners, and women working in the fields. I visited schools, made friends, was invited into homes, tasted local dishes, learned about crops and asked folks about medical care, birth experiences, their families and challenges in their lives. My experiences and photos revealed something I knew all along: women are the heartbeat of Africa. They are the workers in the home, fields and small businesses. Every time I stopped to take in my surroundings, I saw women hauling water, carrying firewood, harvesting, planting, selling, milking, cooking, washing and child rearing.

When the need to seek medical care means a woman must travel from her home, the ripple effect is destabilizing. Whether she is a woman with obstetric fistula who must seek surgical care, she is a mother experiencing complications in childbirth who requires medical intervention for a safe delivery, or a mother accompanying her child for orthopedic care or eye surgery, her absence is keenly felt by those at home and in her community.

Kupona, through CCBRT, supports affordable, comprehensive care for women and children. From transportation costs, to providing room and board, and throughout treatment, there is a focus on easing the family’s burden. For those needing outpatient care, trained therapists travel to homes to deliver training and patient monitoring, allowing mothers to stay at work and avoid costly travel.

On my last day of travel, I enlisted the help of a local fellow and his pikipiki (motorized scooter) to help get me to the bus stop. As we were driving, a woman suddenly stepped out and waved us down. She asked if I was the Fistula Lady. She had overheard conversations in the village that someone working with CCBRT and Kupona was in town and could help women with fistula, so she came looking for me.

She told me her sister-in-law had experienced terrible symptoms after a difficult labor and had delivered a stillborn child. Her husband, believing her to be ill or cursed, and embarrassed by her physical state, sent their two older children away to his parents, refusing to allow them to see their mother. My new friend was determined to help her desperate sister-in-law and asked for our help. She added that there were many more women in surrounding communities that were living with fistula, and they needed our help too. I thought about that forlorn mother who had been separated from her children after surviving such horrific and preventable trauma. I thought about her heartsick children and misguided husband and the grief that all of them must be feeling. And it was then that I vowed to continue the work Kupona and CCBRT are engaged in.

Keeping women whole, healthy and at the center of Tanzanian life is a worthy goal, and through Kupona’s support of CCBRT and its programs we are doing our part to achieve this goal. I invite you to join us. Email us with questions, visit our impact page to learn more or read our Annual Report. Every woman, every child and every family deserves to have access to high quality healthcare that is affordable. And when a family or community loses its heartbeat, the ripple effect of that loss touches so many.

Asante sana,

Betsy

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Photo credit: Sala Lewis
Photo credit: Sala Lewis

Dear Friends,

Women living with obstetric fistula are true heroines. After surviving prolonged and/or obstructed labor – often losing a child and sometimes narrowly escaping death in the process – they frequently live for months or years burdened by chronic incontinence and all that comes with that condition: stigma, misconceptions and isolation. Many women don’t realize that treatment is an option; among those who do, many don’t know how to access it.

That’s where we come in.

Through our local partner, CCBRT, we provide life-changing, holistic treatment to women with fistula in Tanzania. Perhaps equally important, we train maternal health workers and strengthen the healthcare system to manage complications during childbirth, and prevent obstetric fistula from occurring. In addition to providing fistula surgeries and physical rehabilitation, our expert staff offer health education, counseling, family planning consultations and crafts training. All services – including transportation to and from the hospital, food and accommodation during treatment – are provided completely free of charge.

With your support, we’re working to end fistula by ensuring that women who need fistula treatment can access it, and by equipping maternal health workers with the skills and tools they need to prevent fistula in the first place.Your donation today will be amplified through GlobalGiving’s 2018 Giving Tuesday matching funds campaign.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, so far this year CCBRT has:

  • Provided 488 fistula surgeries
  • Reached 658 women living with fistula with holistic care services
  • Trained 746 maternal health professionals in 22 partner sites to handle complex deliveries. We’re on track to reach another 300 health workers before end of year!

Walking through the hospital’s halls, CCBRT COO Brenda Msangi sees the profound impact that our high quality healthcare services have on our patients and their families every day.

As Brenda shares in this video message, your support is instrumental to our ability to provide the comprehensive care our patients need and deserve – but otherwise couldn’t afford. Our maternal and newborn healthcare capacity building team’s dedication and consistent presence since 2010 has meant so much to realizing the quality improvements that we’ve seen -- including a 40% increase in maternal survival since 2012.   

For women affected by fistula, CCBRT’s services offer physical and emotional relief – as well as hope for the future. Ninety-five percent of our fistula patients in 2018 reported feeling more accepted and supported by their community after surgery.

For these reasons, Brenda and I are asking you to please join us in giving the gift of health and hope to an expectant mother or woman with obstetric fistula by making a donation today. All donations we receive on Giving Tuesday, will help us earn a share of $150,000 in matching funds and bonus prizes from GlobalGiving – meaning that your gift goes further to change lives. Recurring monthly donations up to $200 will be matched at 100%.

Thank you for your incredible support and for being part of the Kupona family – we couldn’t do this without you.

With gratitude,
Abbey
Executive Director

Links:

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A mother cradles her newborn after a safe birth
A mother cradles her newborn after a safe birth

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. This week, my team and I are reflecting on a year that has been difficult, yet so rewarding. Our CCBRT Maternal Health Capacity Building team feels we sometimes learn more than we teach. While working together with our partners and healthcare providers, we find new solutions to old challenges.

Recently, we conducted a refresher on-the-job training for healthcare workers that focused on postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Tanzania, accounting for more than 30% of all maternal deaths. The tragedy is that death due to PPH is preventable. The challenge is it requires an entire team to respond. Unfortunately, a full team of medical professionals is not always available. Staff shortages, gaps in training, and overwhelmed, overcrowded delivery wards in Tanzania are all factors that can contribute to a mother’s life being lost in just minutes.

At one of the facilities where my team trains and mentors healthcare workers, the supervising medical officer identified that staffing was an issue and that sometimes emergency cases did not have the support they needed. She wisely requested that we train non-maternal healthcare staff in PPH management. So, we conducted the training, even training outpatient nurses and staff from wards serving men only.

One week after the training, this medical officer called me with so much excitement. The night before, a patient had delivered her baby, and began to hemorrhage after delivery. The attending nurse shouted for help, but the doctor and only other nurse on duty in the ward were handling an emergency caesarean section in the operating theater. The nurse’s cries reached the neighboring wards, and ‘help’ came running from the outpatient and men’s wards. Thanks to the training they had received the week before, everyone knew exactly what to do. The team saved the mother’s life.

The medical officer told me that before her staff received the PPH training, they would have been afraid to respond to an emergency like this, but not anymore. Her staff were excited and motivated. She said, ‘For them, it truly was a sweet victory.”

My team and I are always grateful for these moments. Equipment and innovation in low-resource settings are critical for progress, but at the heart of our success lies one indispensable resource: people. It is the people we train, their collaboration, their courage in the face of emergencies, and their dedication to their patients that will change the face of maternal healthcare in Tanzania. And it is your support that empowers us to keep going.

We are more powerful together.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday in the United States. Here in Tanzania, we are also answering the call to give. I invite you to join us. Your gift of $100 provides training for two healthcare workers to save lives at birth, to prevent birth injuries like obstetric fistula, and to identify congenital disabilities like clubfoot for immediate referral and treatment. Thanks to our friends at GlobalGiving, there are matching funds available, so your gift goes even further! Just as one nurse cannot do the work of a full team, our success requires us all to work together for the mothers we are serving.

Thank you for supporting my team, and for helping us save the lives of women and newborns in Tanzania.

 

Be well,

Dr. Brenda D’mello
Technical Advisor & Project Manager
Maternal Health Capacity Building Program, CCBRT

CCBRT is Kupona Foundation’s partner organization in Tanzania.

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Meet Rehema
Meet Rehema

“I was sitting with the other women on a chair when a nurse asked me to wait outside on the grass. She told me to never sit on the clinic chairs, because my fistula will get them dirty.”

This is where CCBRT fistula ambassadors first met 23-year-old Rehema.

She was attending a clinic in north-western Tanzania with her 3-month-old baby. Her obstetric fistula, a devastating yet preventable and treatable childbirth injury, had left her chronically incontinent. Leaking urine, a nurse sent this new mother outside to sit on the ground, while other mothers waited on chairs inside, shielded from the East African heat.

Rehema developed fistula while delivering her second child. There was a complication, and she did not have access to high quality emergency maternal healthcare. The good news was that her baby survived the complicated delivery; an estimated 90% of women living with fistula lose their baby during the traumatic birth. In the months that followed, Rehema struggled to live with chronic incontinence and daily stigma and criticism, while also taking care of a newborn.

Our dedicated colleagues presented Rehema with treatment options and assured her that her transportation and treatment at CCBRT could be provided free of charge. They arranged for Rehema to spend a night in a hotel near the bus station so she could easily take the bus to CCBRT early the next morning. That night, when a team member went to check on Rehema, they found her sleeping on the floor with her baby. She had been given adult sanitary underwear so she could travel while leaking, but three months of living with fistula had left a psychological mark. When asked why she was on the floor she replied, “I’m afraid to wet the mattress.”

The next day, Rehema and her baby left for Dar es Salaam. A few days later, the fistula team that referred her visited her in CCBRT’s fistula ward. She was beaming and was almost a different person than the one they had seen in a hotel room days before.

“I’m so thankful that you referred me here,” she told the team. “When I go back home no one will mock me again. Fistula kept me from going to the market, the farm or to [community events like] funerals, but after this treatment I’ll be comfortable mingling with other people. I really thank CCBRT for this help; I could not have afforded this treatment on my own.”

Rehema’s story is one of hundreds that we see each year. Without you, our donors and partners, we could not help women like Rehema. Without you, we could not make the necessary investments in strengthening maternal and newborn healthcare in Tanzania to prevent more women from developing obstetric fistula in the first place. Your generous donations change lives every day. Thank you.

We won’t stop until we’ve eradicated fistula in Tanzania. Join us on this journey. At midnight (ET) on Wednesday, September 12th, our partners at GlobalGiving will launch a Global Bonus Day, running for 33 hours to accommodate time zones. Donations up to $1,500 per unique donor will help us earn a portion of the $50,000 Incentive Fund. Your donation will help unlock funds from 12:00am ET on Wednesday, September 12th until 8:59am ET on Thursday, September 13thYour donation means we can reach more women like Rehema with the care they need, and ensure more women don’t experience the pain that Rehema endured.

Asante sana (thank you very much) for your support.

Abbey Kocan

 

P.S., Check out Kupona’s 2017 Annual Report to read more stories of the lives you have changed!

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Dear Friends,

Today on Bonus Day, I want you to meet a very special lady.

Msonde is 82-years-old; she had her first child in 1958. With the delivery of that baby, she developed an obstetric fistula that left her chronically incontinent. With access to high quality, emergency maternal healthcare, it is likely that this debilitating disability could have been prevented. With knowledge about her condition, Msonde could have received treatment to correct her fistula.

The tragedy is Msonde lived with fistula for over 60 years.

“I managed to live with fistula for such a long time because of my husband’s support,” she says. “He ignored our family and our community when they used to stigmatize me. He was an exceptional husband. He never stigmatized me as others did. He always stood by my side. I remember he used to quarrel with his relatives because of me, God rest him in peace.”

Msonde and her husband went on to have a total of five children, which she delivered in spite of her fistula, but there were still many trials. Most of the time, Msonde avoided community gatherings, and avoided drinking water because of her chronic incontinence, especially on days when she was supposed to attend church.

This year, Msonde’s niece who lives in Dar es Salaam came to her village as a CCBRT ambassador. She explained what fistula was, and shared that treatment was available and free of charge. Msonde could barely believe it, but she traveled over 700 miles to Dar es Salaam to be evaluated for treatment.

“When I arrived at CCBRT, I could not believe it was possible, but I found many women undergoing fistula treatment.”

Now sitting in recovery in the CCBRT Fistula Ward after a successful surgery, she raises her hands in prayer for her husband. “I wish my husband could have been alive. We are now old, but he could have been able to see me walking freely.”

Today, your donation will be matched 50% by our friends at GlobalGiving until midnight or the matching funds run out. That means that we can reach more women like Msonde with the high quality maternal healthcare, life-changing surgical and rehabilitative care and stigma-busting information they need.

No woman should live with preventable, treatable fistula for 60 years, or even 6 months. Our vision is a Tanzania without fistula, where every woman can walk freely and in the fullness of her potential. Please consider giving today before matching funds expire.

Thank you for your support.

Warm regards,
Abbey

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Organization Information

Kupona Foundation

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @KuponaFdn
Project Leader:
Susana Oguntoye
Executive Director
Washington, DC - District of Columbia United States
$143,986 raised of $400,000 goal
 
2,030 donations
$256,014 to go
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