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For Africare, Saving Lives at Birth Means Bringing Innovation and Community Partnerships to Zambia and Senegal

WASHINGTON, (JULY 28, 2014) - Pregnancy and childbirth in Zambia continue to be risky, leading to death and disability for some women of childbearing age. Africare, a non-profit organization committed to improving the lives of people in Africa, will present solutions to maternal and infant mortality in Zambia and Senegal at the 2014 Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development Conference from July 30 until August 1, 2014, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

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Africare will propose an integrated package of maternal and newborn interventions to increase demand for and access to quality health services. The project, “Maternity Waiting Homes: Integrated Maternal and Child Health,” will create maternity waiting homes and use mobile technology and motorbike ambulances to close the distance between expecting mothers and the health centers from which they receive prenatal care services in Zambia.

Africare has successfully run maternity waiting homes in Liberia, where preliminary results from the Liberia USAID Child Survival Innovation Grant project led by Africare have shown an increased uptake of facility delivery services and a decrease in number of maternal deaths in facilities with MWHs in Liberia, with maternal deaths significantly different between MWH and non-MWH communities (p=.040) (Lori et al 2013). With funding from Merck for Mothers in Zambia Africare, along with University of Michigan, also researched the feasibility and acceptability of MWHs and results strongly support the findings in Liberia that, for more women in rural settings to deliver in clinics, there must be a comfortable place for them to stay near the health center where they travel to and stay prior to onset of labor.

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“Africare is currently implementing a maternity waiting home model in Liberia where early results show that maternity waiting homes can literally be the difference between life and death for expecting mothers,” said Dr. Nene Diallo, deputy director of the Office of Health at Africare. “We are confident in our ability to take this model from Liberia and scale it up in remote areas of Zambia where the demand for safer delivery conditions exist.”

Africare’s “Maternity Waiting Homes” project in Zambia contains three pillars:

  • Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAG) comprising of Africare-trained community volunteers who will teach and help women and their families during pregnancy.
  • Maternal Waiting Homes constructed next to health facilitates where pregnant women stay to receive care and rest prior to delivery.
  • CommCare mobile technology to provide pregnant women with real-time health information and reminders to support them during pregnancy.

This project is expected to reach approximately 11,691 pregnant women in the Kasama and Mpika districts in Zambia annually for three years, and is expected to increase the antenatal care coverage and delivery under skilled birth attendants by 25 percent. Africare also expects a 20 percent decrease in the proportion of low birth weight infants.

Last year Africare was selected as a Round 3 finalist at the 2013 “DevelopmentXChange” Saving Lives at Birth Conference for its Collaborative Community Based Technology To Improve Maternal and Child Health in Senegal model. With funding from Saving Lives at Birth, Africare’s Senegal team will officially launch model in five districts in Senegal on July 24, 2014. Africare/Senegal’s Country Director Gwen K. Young will present at this year’s conference.

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Saving Lives at Birth is a partnership that includes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) to invest in ground- breaking and sustainable projects with the potential to accelerate substantial progress against maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths at the community level.

The DevelopmentXChange Marketplace will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., and is open to the public on Friday August 1 from 9 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

Members of the public can also vote for their favorite innovations through the People’s Choice Award from now until August 1. To vote for Africare’s “Maternity Waiting Homes: Integrated Maternal and Child Health in Zambia” in the People’s Choice Award at the Saving Lives at Birth Innovators Conference, please visit here.

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