Lensa starts her placement

Lensa PlacementIn the Autumn two of our Maternity Worldwide volunteers, Karen and Jeremy, who had spent a year at our programme in Ethiopia, decided to move to Addis Ababa after enjoying their time spent in the country previously.

As part of their current work they went to Mettu where they were able to meet up with our student midwife Lensa who was on her placement at Mettu Government Hospital at the time to see how she was getting on with the second year of her course.  Karen and Jeremy were also able to give Lensa a laptop which had kindly been donated to Maternity Worldwide by a generous supporter.

Karen sent us this update on Lensa;

“Lensa is doing really well and is studying incredibly hard.  Her ability to speak English is improving at a rapid rate, which will help her in her exams – as they are all in English.  Interestingly, I met a few of her friends and they all had fairly poor English compared to her.  Her exam results remain in the ‘As’, which is no surprise as she studies every day.  She was doing her 3 week placement at the government hospital in Mettu whilst we were there, which was great as we were working in the fistula hospital in the same grounds.  Lensa was able to come into theatre to watch Jeremy repair a fistula and he taught her a bit about that.

Lensa LaptopEvery morning at the hospital, the doctors do a round and the midwifery students all have to answer various questions about the patients and their conditions and treatments.  We were testing her on this and she was really well informed about things, Jeremy was impressed with her knowledge.

Lensa was really pleased with her laptop.  She is going to be using it to write her essays and also to access the various documents that the teaching staff give her to read (vast amounts!).

She remains committed to returning to the rural area to work once she has completed her training but for now she is enjoying the challenges of learning lots of new things and is eager to do well in her exams.”

Lensa and Jeremy
We would like to say a huge thank you for everyone who took part in Muffins for Midwives last May, the money raised will pay for the remainder of Lensa’s midwifery course as well as the full 3 year course for Robert in Malawi.  If you would like to hold a cake sale, coffee morning or tea party to raise money to sponsor the training of midwives in Africa please click here for your free fundraising pack and more information.

Why Poverty?

Is it worse to be born poor or die poor?

‘Welcome to the World – Four Born Every Second’ is a moving documentary showing childbirth around the world by Why Poverty.

Every year 130 million babies are born.  Their life chances are a lottery depending on where they are born.  In Europe, six babies per 1000 will die before their first birthday. In Africa, it’s 82.  Through the stories of mothers and babies around the world, the documentary looks at how poverty affects childbirth, childhood – and everything beyond.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Most deaths in childbirth can be prevented fairly easily and at a relatively low cost.  Maternity Worldwide have been finding sustainable ways of saving lives in childbirth for 10 years.  You can see some of the thousands of women we have saved here.

If you want to help save a mother’s life you can sponsor a safe birth – it costs just £15.  To find out more click here.

The Week Magazine – Charity of the week!

The Week - 25th Jan 2014We would like to say a big thank you to The Week for choosing Maternity Worldwide as their charity of the week.  The issue goes on sale on 25th January 2014.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted us after seeing our appeal in The Week.

Symposium on Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia

Maternity Worldwide, in partnership with The Ethiopian Embassy, were delighted to host a Symposium on Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia at The Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on Thursday 16th January 2014.

AmbassadorThe event presented the strategy of the Ethiopian Government to improve maternal and newborn health; how the UK Government is supporting this and showcased the work of Maternity Worldwide and its partners over the past 11 years in Ethiopia.

The evening included presentations from H.E. Ambassador Berhanu Kebede, Dr Adrian Brown – Chair of Maternity Worldwide, Dr Karen Ballard – Director of Research for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and Maternity Worldwide volunteer, Prof Andrew Shennan from Kings College London and was compered by Mary Russell – Trustee of Maternity Worldwide.  The attendees were from UK based NGOs and professional and academic institutions working in maternal and newborn health as well as policy makers and donors.  Open discussions took place to discuss best practice and the future of maternal and newborn health in Ethiopia.

Thank you to everyone who attended.

Lensa, our trainee midwife, passes her first year

Lensa at FIGO Conference - Front - Oct 2013

We are delighted to report that Lensa, our trainee midwife in Ethiopia has passed her first year of midwifery training and is now beginning her second year.  Lensa is really enjoying the course and is very happy at University.

Recently two of our previous volunteers Karen and Jeremy, who volunteered at our project in Gimbie for a year, have returned to Ethiopia and are living in Addis Ababa.  Lensa went to visit them and gave them an update on her studying.

Whilst in Addis Ababa, Lensa went to the FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) Africa Conference which was all about midwifery and maternal health.  Lensa was also invited to the British Embassy with Karen and Jeremy whilst she was there!  Lensa is really passionate about midwifery and expanding her knowledge whenever possible.  You can read about her previous progress here.

One thing which arose from the discussions with Lensa about her course is that all of the students get given all the lessons and literature on a CD (if they have a laptop) – otherwise they have to photocopy what they can.  This can lead to problems if the photocopier isn’t working or there isn’t any paper.  Can you help?  Do you have an old laptop (with a CD drive) which you don’t use any more and could donate to Lensa?

Please contact Maternity Worldwide on 01273 234033 or email [email protected] if you are able to help.

It costs us, on average, £80 a month to sponsor Lensa’s midwifery training, if you would like to sponsor a month of midwifery training please see our online shop here.

Thank you to Giant Shoreham

Ethiopia Bike Ride 2012A big thank you to Giant Shoreham bike shop who have kindly sponsored the T-Shirts for our Uganda Bike Ride which begins on Thursday 26th September.

We will post a photograph of our 13 cyclists and 4 volunteers wearing the T-shirts when they triumphantly reach the finish line in Hoima, Uganda on 4th October!

If you would like to read more about the bike ride and perhaps take part next year please click here.

To sponsor the cyclists taking part in the 370km cycle across Uganda to raise money for our new project there please visit our Just Giving page here.

Giant Shoreham opened in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex in 2011 and is owned by Rod and Maria Lambert, existing Giant Retailers with Mr Cycles.  The store is located at Falconer’s Court on Little High Street and offers the widest display of Giant bikes and cycling gear in the county in a unique modern store environment.  For more information about Giant Shoreham please visit their website here.

The astonishing courage of Ethiopian women by Dr Karen Ballard, MW volunteer. Published by The Telegraph.

Aster-wpcf_300x337Dr Karen Ballard, a senior lecturer in Women’s Health at the University of Surrey, writes about her year as a volunteer for Maternity Worldwide caring for pregnant Ethiopian women in a rural clinic.

Balaynesh is 17 years-old. At least she thinks she is, but when you don’t celebrate birthdays, you easily lose count of the years. She arrived at an antenatal clinic I was running in the rural highlands of western Ethiopia, having heard that there was a farengii (foreigner) carrying out ultrasound scans on pregnant women.

Like most women I saw, Balaynesh had walked for just over two hours along the rust-tinged dirt tracks to get to the clinic. She sat patiently with the other 20 or so women, all prepared to wait many hours for their turn. Perhaps it was a welcome relief from the relentless grind of daily work.

Each day, women carry several litres of water from the stream, collect heavy loads of firewood for cooking and heating, prepare whatever food has been grown in the fields, wash the clothes in the stream, clean the house and care for the children. If she has any daughters, they will often be enlisted to help, their presence at school being viewed as less important.

Despite the harshness of their lives, the smiling faces of these high cheek-boned women, with their classically almond shaped eyes, reveal a sense of acceptance of whatever care they will receive in this shabby, poorly equipped and dimly lit health centre.

ultrasoundAs I squirted ultrasound gel on Balaynesh’s abdomen, she giggled nervously at the curious experience of being examined by a farengii, whose attempts to speak the language resulted in limited communication. Advances in technology allow us to bring portable ultrasound machines, not much larger than a mobile phone, to the most rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. They allow women, who do not even have access to a mirror, see images of their unborn baby.

Balaynesh is shown the baby’s head and its beating heart. For a few seconds a completely unguarded smile lights up her entire face. “There are two babies,” I gently explain, knowing that this news is unlikely to be received with joy.

Giving birth to twins can be hazardous, even with excellent health care facilities. In rural Ethiopia, limited transport along unmade roads, and a lack of finances to access this transport, means that the vast majority of women will deliver their babies on the hard, mud floor of their home. They will receive no pain relief. They may be in complete darkness. They may be alone. If labour becomes complicated, they will walk or be carried on a stretcher to the nearest health facility, often two or three hours away. If it is dark outside, seeking assistance must be delayed until morning. Even when women reach the health centres, the treatment they need may not be available.

Karen with Chaltu and twins - resizedMost rural health centres have limited supplies of water, electricity, equipment and drugs. They cannot provide caesarean sections or blood transfusions and staff are only trained to deal with simple childbirth complications. Being pregnant with twins means that Balaynesh is likely to require hospital care. Yet, her labour may commence at night when it is almost impossible to reach the hospital town. The transport costs will require her family to sell a coffee tree or a cow to raise the money; leaving their ability to provide for future family needs significantly reduced.

While a voluntary worker in Ethiopia, I was constantly astonished by the courage of women facing childbirth. They were aware of the risks they face. With a maternal death rate of one in every 30 women, they will all know someone who has died in childbirth. Yet they continue to deliver at home to avoid “unnecessary” costs. They work right up until the day they give birth and may even deliver the baby on the side of the road, after which they will rest for just a few hours before walking back home. Perhaps most astonishing of all is that these women endure all of this while also knowing that one in every 17 children will die before their first birthday.

When I first arrived in Ethiopia, I was overwhelmed by the level of poverty, and what at first, seemed to be a hopeless situation. I had signed up for a year here and my biggest fear was that I would not really achieve anything of value. At every corner, there seemed to be so many people with insurmountable problems, and they all seemed to be looking to me for help.

Risk screening 1 EthiopiaI was extremely lucky to have been given one valuable piece of advice from a friend in England who had also worked in Ethiopia. She told me that I would be confronted with vast numbers of people asking for help, and that I would certainly believe I could help many of them. However, she advised me to remain focused on what I was there for, and not to be tempted to take on everyone’s problems. Otherwise, she warned, I would achieve very little and end up exhausted and frustrated, running around trying to sort one problem after another.

It was impossible for me to walk away from someone who was seriously hungry or someone who could not afford to pay for life-saving medical treatment, but I soon realised that there were very many people in this situation. At first, I found it tremendously difficult to live in a world where very basic needs were not being met and I often lay awake at night, wondering what had happened to various people in extreme poverty that I had encountered.

While I don’t think it was ever easy to accept the suffering and the inequalities, I eventually adjusted to living among it and achieved some satisfaction from the knowledge that I was improving the outcomes for the pregnant women I met at the antenatal clinics.

Karen and Jeremy carI left Ethiopia with some incredibly fond memories of the people I encountered, many of whom have become treasured friends. They have welcomed me into their country and proudly shown me their way of life. They have invited me to eat in their homes and marked our friendship with coffee ceremonies. They have shown great courage and strength in dealing with their difficult lives, and their acceptance of adversity is remarkable. I recently visited Ethiopia for two weeks and was greeted by one of the nurses I used to work with, who had travelled on buses for two days to greet me. With so little, people can give so much.

This article was published on The Telegraph website on 17th May 2013.

Why is sub-Saharan Africa such a dangerous place to be born?

Save the Children - State of the World's Mothers 2013 - front coverOn 12th May 2013 Save the Children launched their 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

The report details the best and worst places in the world to give birth.  Here are some facts about sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the riskiest region to be born.

  • The 14 countries with the highest first-day death rates are all in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • As a region, sub-Saharan Africa’s first-day mortality rate is 12 per 1,000 live births.
  • Babies born in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 7 times as likely to die on the day they are born compared to babies born in industrialized countries.
  • An estimated 397,000 babies die each year in sub-Saharan Africa on the day they are born.
  • The region accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population but 38 percent of the world’s first-day deaths.

Why is sub-Saharan Africa such a dangerous place to be born?

Many sub-Saharan African countries have unusually high rates of preterm birth. For example, in Malawi, 18 percent of babies are born too early – the highest prevalence in the world.

Poor Health
Poor health among African mothers contributes to high rates of first-day death for babies. Serious maternal malnutrition is common in the region, where 10-20 percent of women are underweight. Especially large numbers of underweight mothers are found in Ethiopia (24 percent).

Young Marriage
It is common for women in sub-Saharan Africa to marry and begin having babies at a young age, before their bodies have fully matured.

Low Contraceptive Use
Low contraceptive use, high fertility and poor newborn outcomes go hand-in-hand. Across the region, less than 16 percent of women use a modern method of contraception. It’s not surprising, then, that women in the region have on average five children each. Mothers in Malawi, Mali, Somalia and Zambia have six children on average.

Availability of Healthcare
Health care for mothers in sub-Saharan Africa is woefully insufficient. On average, only half the women in the region receive skilled care during birth. In Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan, more than half of all women receive absolutely no skilled prenatal care. In Ethiopia, up to 90 percent of women give birth at home without skilled care. A severe shortage of health workers in Africa explains many of these dire statistics. The region as a whole has only 11 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people – less than half the critical threshold of 23 generally considered necessary to deliver essential health services. Out of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with available data, only eight meet the minimum threshold for number of health workers.

This is the reason why we focus our work in sub-Saharan Africa.  To read the full report please visit our Resources section.  To find out what we are doing to help in each of our projects please click here.

Knitted vests delivered to babies in Malawi

Knitting Donations from S.Howden August 2012One of our trustee’s, Grace, is based in Zomba district, Malawi.  On a recent visit to the UK she took a huge box full of knitted baby vests and blankets back with her along with some blood pressure monitoring machines.  The vests and blankets are kindly donated by a wonderful team of volunteer knitters who regularly send us beautifully crafted items.

Nurses with the baby vests

This picture shows the nurses who are in charge of the six health centres; Chipini, Matiya, Thondwe, Magomero, Mayaka and Pirimiti sharing out the blood pressure machines, baby vests and blankets.  Each labour ward and postnatal ward will have a supply of vests and blankets to hand out to the mothers most in need.  Grace will be taking more vests back with her in June.

Mum and baby - CroppedHere is a new mum in Pirimiti hospital who has just been given one of the beautiful knitted dresses.  Many mothers can’t afford to buy extra clothes for their baby.  At night time the temperatures can drop considerably so the vests and blankets help to keep babies warm at night.

If you would like to knit some baby vests or blankets for us please find the Baby Vest Pattern here.  If you have any questions please email [email protected] or call 01273 234033.

For more information about our project in Malawi please click here.

Thank you to everyone who has knitted items for us, the mothers who receive them are very grateful.


Update from Lensa, a trainee midwife in Ethiopia

Lensa at University

Lensa was a Diploma Nurse in the West Wollega area of Ethiopia.  We are sponsoring her 4 year course to become a qualified midwife.  Lensa started the course in October 2012 and we asked her to let us know how she is getting on.  Here is what she had to say;

I have classes Monday to Friday and sometimes tutorials on Saturday.  There are 53 students in my class and there are some very clever students.  I had exams in sociology and health technology and scored A in both.  I got an A+ in my anatomy exam last week and have my physiology next week.  The Myles textbook which Maternity Worldwide sent me has really helped.  I also have English classes as part of the course, I got a B+ for my exam but I am trying to improve.  I live in a nice dormitory with 8 other students.

It costs as little as £80 a month, on average, to sponsor the training of a midwife in Ethiopia.  In West Wollega, throughout the career of a midwife they could help to deliver approximately 7,500 babies.  At the moment around 94% of women give birth without any skilled health workers present.  We could change this by training more midwives.  If you would like to help then why not host a Muffins for Midwives event.