By Gabrielle Bourke, Field Partnerships Advisor, Program Resources , World Vision Australia
Precious’ journey to motherhood
In her family village of Kabambiro in western Uganda, 23-year-old Precious is celebrating the safe delivery of her second child, a healthy baby boy. When she first discovered she was pregnant, Precious was quick to share the news with her extended family. Her parents recommended that Precious journey back to her home village to have the support of her mother and aunties during childbirth. As her delivery date drew closer, Precious made the arduous 165km journey from Mubende, southwest Uganda, to her mother’s home, in Kabambiro, Kamwenge.
Upon arrival in Kamwenge, Precious visited the Kabambiro Health Centre to check on the health of her baby and continue antenatal visits. In her fourth antenatal consultation, Precious was given a clean birthing kit, with all the essential supplies for a clean and safe delivery. “I was very excited when I received the kit because I had no money to buy what was required by the hospital to give birth,” recounts Precious.
Precious (far right) and new mothers who have safely given birth with clean birthing kits.
The reality in Uganda: urgent need for medical supplies
Without access to essential medical supplies to support a clean birthing environment, many women in Uganda resort to borrowing money (typically around USD$40) to cover the cost of supplies and ensure safe transport to the clinic. According to the Director of the Kabambiro Health Centre, some women arrive without money or supplies to facilitate a clean delivery: “The community we are serving are vulnerable. People cannot afford to buy the necessities, let alone pay for additional medical supplies. Sometimes, women decide not to deliver at a clinic…they are not able to afford it.”
For mothers like Precious, the provision of clean birthing kits is a key incentive to deliver at a health clinic with the support of trained health professionals, who can intervene in case of complications. The kits also encourage women and their partners to attend antenatal check-ups, where they receive important information to optimise the health and nutrition of mother and baby. Two months after delivery, Precious’ son is happy and healthy. She attributes his good health to giving birth in a clean environment, which helped to protect her health and that of her baby boy. “The kaveera (plastic sheet) helps to prevent infections spreading from one person to another. My son has not contracted any disease.”
Precious (right) proudly holds her newborn son and clean birthing kit, which prevent the spread of infection for mothers, newborns and midwives.
The impact of clean birthing kits
Since the provision of clean birthing kits, there has been an increase in the number of women attending the Kabambiro Health Centre for both antenatal support and delivery. Over 200 women access antenatal services every month. With the help of community health workers (CHWs), more women have been encouraged to have safe deliveries at local clinics. “When mothers are informed about the birthing kits, they become interested in coming to the clinic. They come in big numbers,” says Scovia Mbabazi, a senior community health worker in Kabambiro. Clinic deliveries have increased by 30 per cent, with an average of 60 deliveries now supported each month.