These 4 Women Are Helping Moms and Babies Thrive

Through USAID, more women around the world are getting prenatal care and safely delivering healthy babies

Esther Maliga, 19, with her baby Jaminewa, and Florence Lextion, 24, with her daughter Alice Terewa after volunteer home health promoter Wilma Avowa helped them give birth safely. / Catharine McKaig for USAID

Mothers are the backbones of their families, communities and local economies. USAID works to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers around the globe, helping developing countries thrive.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate by highlighting the success stories of mothers living in communities where USAID works, where our efforts have saved the lives of 200,000 women since 2008.

Safe Delivery At All Costs

When gunshots erupted in Wilma Avowa’s village in South Sudan, all she could think about were her two pregnant neighbors.

In the midst of the violence and civil unrest in December 2013, Esther Maliga and Florence Lextion were days away from delivering their babies.

As she fled her village, Wilma remembered to bring two “Mama Kits.” Wilma, a USAID-trained volunteer home health promoter, had the essential tools needed for a safe delivery in these kits, including a sterile blade, a small plastic sheet, soap, and gloves.

The next day, Wilma delivered two healthy babies and brought them to shelter beneath a rock overhang. Despite the chaos around their village, these mothers prevailed along with over 100 pregnant mothers who survived childbirth during this time thanks to the continued work of the volunteer home health promoters.

Wilma Avowa, a volunteer home health promoter, received the essential tools and skills for safe delivery from USAID-supported training / Catharine McKaig for USAID

Hard Work Pays Off

Satyavati Devi remembers what it used to be like for pregnant women in India. “There were no facilities. If someone went into labor during the night, they would have to take her to the hospital on a bike. If she started to bleed on the way, she would die on the roadside.”

In India, 46,000 mothers and 700,000 newborns die each year from complications relating to childbirth.

After Satyavati became pregnant, she felt overjoyed and relieved that she found the necessary services for a healthy delivery. She credits her successful delivery to a dedicated community health worker who came to her home to counsel her during pregnancy.

Community health workers are a part of a larger change occurring in India after years of dedicated work to improve maternal health. The Government of India, with USAID support, trains skilled birth attendants, encourages prenatal care, and ensures that children receive proper vaccinations.

Thanks to the health worker who kept track of Satyavati’s progress, she is raising a healthy son who received all his vaccinations and is growing up in a home with good hygiene habits.

Satyavati Devi with her newborn son after a healthy delivery. / USAID

Learning from the Past

Sarah Naisambu experienced two miscarriages after receiving some bad advice from her friends. “I let my friends’ influence get the best of me and I ignored a nurse’s advice on early antenatal care attendance. And as I slipped deep into depression, I could not help but regret my mistakes,” said Sarah.

A community health volunteer named Joyce Njunukha from her village in Ndengelwa, Kenya, heard about Sarah’s woes and began to counsel her on steps to take for a safe pregnancy.

Sarah learned important information on how to prevent malaria during pregnancy, the leading cause of maternal death in Kenya, and she received USAID-supported prenatal care when she became pregnant again.

“During the pregnancy, I adhered to every advice I was given by Joyce,” Sarah said. “I took three doses of antimalarial tablets and also received tetanus vaccine and blood builder [iron and folic acid supplements].”

Her baby girl, Tabitha, was delivered with a skilled birth attendant, exclusively breastfed, and immunized. Sarah has since taken up the task of encouraging her friends to attend all of their prenatal care visits.

Sarah Naisambu and her husband Ishmael hold their daughter Tabitha, as Joyce Njunukha looks on. / Allan Gichigi for MCSP

Challenging Tradition

Tradition is everything in the Binauna village in western Nepal, including deeply held beliefs about childbirth.

For generations, umbilical cords of newborn babies were cut with dirty knives and often cleaned with cow dung or mustard oil. As a result of these unhygienic conditions, one in 24 newborns would die before their first birthday.

Jharana Kumari Tharu is a young mother, volunteer, housewife and farmer who works to change this norm by educating women in her village about appropriate newborn care.

By using proper hand-washing practices and applying the USAID-supported chlorhexidine antiseptic gel to a newborn’s umbilical cord stump, infant mortality in Nepal has dropped by one-third.

Jharana visits pregnant woman in her village and hosts community events, gradually changing the minds of community members and reversing deeply rooted traditions. She fights to save lives and give mothers peace of mind by knowing that their children are safe when they come into the world.

Jharana Kumari Tharu, a community health volunteer, explains how a simple tube of chlorhexidine antiseptic gel, when applied to her baby’s cut umbilical cord stump, can help prevent infection and even death. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

About this Story

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