Project #1169

Teach Traditional Ethiopian Midwives to Save Lives

by VSI, Venture Strategies Innovations
Ethiopian mother with "miso" baby
Ethiopian mother with "miso" baby

Women who reside in rural areas in Africa are not privy to western conveniences like a health clinic, a doctor or nurse, or even electricity.  Many mothers deliver their babies at home with the help of a family member or midwife.  But the risk of complications, specifically hemorrhaging which is the leading cause of death, is high.  Ethiopian women unfortunately have a 1 in 27 lifetime risk of dying from maternal causes.   Their deaths are unacceptable and preventable.

A solution exists that comes in the form of a simple, affordable and easy-to-use tablet called misoprostol.  When a mother takes three life-saving tablets immediately after the baby is born, it can effectively prevent excessive bleeding.  A preventative dose is amazingly low in Ethiopia – $1.00.

For essentially pennies, a mother’s life can be saved.  Thousands of women's lives can be spared by making misoprostol available through local businesses in rural Ethiopia and by training frontline providers like midwives, nurses, traditional birth attendants -even the mothers themselves - to use these tablets.

In the next nine days, VSI has an opportunity to increase our impact.  Global Giving is launching a generous matching campaign this Tuesday, October 12th which will run through the following Thursday, October 21st.  Every donation made to this project will be matched by Global Giving.  Make your dollar, which is the cost of this life-saving medicine, stretch by giving a gift through VSI to support our mission and help us reach the 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 this belief and our dedication to making maternal health an equal right no matter where you live.

Ethiopian mother with newborn baby
Ethiopian mother with newborn baby

To help make safer delivery a reality for more mothers in Ethiopia we continue to educate health care providers working on the frontlines to provide misoprostol tablets to manage excessive bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage. On-going training efforts to rural health extension workers are helping to ensure that mothers have the chance to survive childbirth, an often frightening experience for lack of medical care, infrastructure and technology.

In a recent visit to Ethiopia, VSI’s Associate Medical Director met with dedicated health extension workers (HEWs) to observe and gather information about the program as well as to visit with families directly impacted by its success. Capitalizing on the audience with approximately 45 young HEWs in Mojo, Oromiya, she provided a mini-refresher training. She also heard testimonials that highlighted the positive difference these life-saving tablets can make by investing in education, availability and training of HEWS who work in the most rural and underserved areas of Ethiopia. Today the number of babies being born from mothers using “miso” is growing like the photo of this young mother who recently delivered her “miso baby” in her home.

VSI is committed to providing ongoing support and training in order to expand our reach. This summer we hosted an refresher training course to “master trainers” originally enrolled in the project in 2008 and we are embarking upon further HEW trainings in the emerging regions of Ethiopia.

We appreciate the support of those who share our commitment to saving mothers' lives in Ethiopia.


We are pleased to report that our efforts to create access to misoprostol tablets to manage bleeding after childbirth have yielded a broad base of support in Ethiopia, including from the government and partners working towards safer motherhood for Ethiopian mothers. Following a gathering we organized in January 2010 where health care providers and program partners shared successful results and encouraging stories about the use of misoprostol by health workers who care for pregnant mothers, Ethiopia's Ministry of Health took the lead in scaling up training of community health workers and access to the simple tablets, especially to benefit the many women who labor at home.

In a clear demonstration of this support for misoprostol as a strategy for reducing bleeding-related maternal deaths, this month, June 2010, the Ethiopian drug authority took the important policy step of registering misoprostol, thereby enabling legal importation, marketing and distribution of the tablets throughout Ethiopia and paving the way to access for millions of women.

With the generous support of donors and committed maternal health advocates, we continue to collaborate with our local partners in Ethiopia to educate community health workers and make misoprostol tablets available to the women who need them the most.


We are pleased to report that our efforts to educate health care providers in Ethiopia have led to more than 7,000 people trained to use misoprostol tablets for prevention of excessive bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage. In a country where culture and geography contribute to 94% of women delivering at home, the transmission of knowledge on how to use misoprostol to manage postpartum hemorrhage may prove essential in saving the lives of laboring mothers for years to come.

One mother who received misoprostol from a provider we trained told us, “I am overwhelmed with satisfaction by the safe delivery I got taking misoprostol. I’ve had postpartum hemorrhage before, but not this time.”

With our local partners and team taking the lead, we continue to train the young women who are deployed to rural communities by the government to provide primary health care. These health workers previously faced the challenge of providing safe deliveries with minimal supplies and training but are now equipped with a simple to use tablet that clearly benefits the communities they serve. One such health worker recently reported proudly that she had conducted 61 deliveries safely using misoprostol.

Not only are we working diligently to educate health workers in rural villages, but with the obstetrics and gynecological society of Ethiopia we have trained nearly 4,000 students training to be midwives and nurses on misoprostol. By integrating training on misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage into their regular curriculum, we are contributing to a sustainable improvement in knowledge about a life-saving drug among the men and women who serve families across Ethiopia.

We appreciate the support of those who share our commitment to saving mothers' lives in Ethiopia.

A traditional midwife trained to provide misoprostol through our project recounted a story that is all too common in rural Ethiopia. She identified excessive blood loss in a woman who had just delivered her baby, but the woman’s family did not have money to send her to the hospital for additional care. By the time community members assembled enough money to transport her, it was too late. “If the solution [misoprostol] is at hand, we will work closely with health extension workers to save the lives of mothers,” the traditional midwife said.

Venture Strategies is successfully making misoprostol an essential component of safe childbirth for the millions of women who stand to benefit from access to the simple, low-cost tablet in Ethiopia. We are supporting the nurse-midwives association in training village-level health workers in the proper use of misoprostol to prevent excessive bleeding, or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), in home births, since nearly 94% of mothers deliver at home in Ethiopia. In June 2009, our project trained 250 of a planned 600 traditional midwives as well as 100 health extension workers, government-sponsored primary care providers.

This project is unique as it establishes linkages between Ethiopia’s government health providers and village-level traditional midwives by training both on misoprostol and how to work together more effectively to reach women and provide safe deliveries.

Our efforts to make these life-saving tablets available in communities are met by enthusiasm from health professionals at the higher levels who recognize the role of misoprostol in safe childbirth. By empowering traditional midwives and health extension workers in villages with the skills to properly use misoprostol for PPH prevention, we are contributing to a reduction in the number of mothers who must be referred to the already overburdened health facilities and therefore, the number of mothers who risk dying from a delay in receiving care.

We are encouraged by our progress towards reducing maternal deaths in Ethiopia and appreciate the support we receive from generous donors.


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Organization Information

VSI, Venture Strategies Innovations

Location: Irvine, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​
VSI, Venture Strategies Innovations
Project Leader:
Allison Boiles
Communications Specialist
Anaheim, CA United States

Funded Project!

Thanks to 123 donors like you, a total of $10,373 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. 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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