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The Life-Saving Impact of Clean Birthing Kits

World Vision
11 May 2018 by Gabrielle Bourke
The Life-Saving Impact of Clean Birthing Kits

A young girl in Afghanistan holds a birthing kit received by her mother.

In the lead-up to Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating the generosity and commitment of our partners to protect the health of mothers and newborns around the world. Since 2015, World Vision Australia has partnered with Birthing Kit Foundation Australia to support a clean birthing environment in vulnerable communities. Since our partnership began, over 90,000 clean birthing kits have been assembled and delivered to women across Africa and the Middle East. That’s 180,000 mothers and newborns impacted from a simple, life-saving kit!

Motherhood around the world

For women in Australia, motherhood is often a source of great joy – welcoming a child into the world and experiencing the world afresh through their eyes. It’s also a time of profound change – of sleepless nights and frequent health check-ups, and constant learning to adjust to a new way of life.

For young women in the developing world, the joy of motherhood can be overshadowed by fear of life-threatening illness or losing a child to preventable causes. In Africa and the Middle East, poverty and displacement restrict access to healthcare and create complications during pregnancy and childbirth. For many mothers, the cost of medical supplies may be prohibitive, or the distance to the clinic too far to travel in the case of emergency.

Birthing kits: a simple and life-saving intervention

Our partnership with Birthing Kit Foundation Australia provides vital resources to support the health of mothers and newborns in fragile contexts. Each kit contains six essential items: gloves, gauze, string, a plastic sheet, soap and a sterile blade. The kits are integrated to support World Vision’s work in the following ways:

  • Maternal and child health programs: Kits are provided to remote and under-resourced health clinics in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia and Afghanistan. They are given to women attending their fourth antenatal consultation, acting as an incentive for women to attend clinics and receive pre- and post-natal support. The provision of free kits also means that women do not have to worry about the cost of medical supplies if they deliver their baby in a clinic.
  • Emergency response: Kits are prepositioned in refugee and Internally-Displaced-Persons camps in Uganda, DRC and Somalia. This assists clinics to meet unpredictable demand from displaced populations.

Birthing kits help to ensure a clean birth in Uganda.

Bibishah’s story: how clean birthing kits are empowering Afghani mothers

In a maternal health centre in the western Afghan province of Herat, a young woman, Bibishah, waits patiently for her antenatal consultation.

When her name is called, Bibishah is welcomed into a room by a midwife named Marzia, who received her midwifery training with the help of World Vision. Marzia is committed to raising awareness among mothers and families on the importance of pre- and post-natal care.

Bibishah, in her 9th month of pregnancy, is visiting the clinic for the first time. She gave birth to her first child two years ago with the help of an unskilled traditional birth attendant, which left her suffering from back pain due to an infection.

“I have a lot of patients who suffer from infections who have given birth at home with the assistance of traditional birth attendants,” says Marzia. “Some of them come to the clinic immediately for treatment. Others use a home treatment, and if they don’t see results, then they will come to the clinic.”

Dr. Shakib, a World Vision Afghanistan Health Specialist, says, “Many maternal and infant deaths are preventable through education about clean birthing practices, having clean birthing kits as part of the birth planning process and using clean birthing kits.”

According to Dr. Shakib, there are no local sources of clean birthing kits outside of what they receive from World Vision and Birthing Kit Foundation Australia.

Marzia notes that before the provision of clean birthing kits, she would often see newborns suffering from severe infections. She explains, “Many traditional birth attendants don’t use sterile blades or thread to cut the umbilical cord. Mothers [often] apply herbs and animal oil to the cord to dry it, leading to infection.”

Marzia explains the importance of a clean birthing environment to Bibishah.

The length of string in the clean birthing kit provides a simple and safe means to stem umbilical cord bleeding. “We used to use plastic umbilical clamps which was sometimes very dangerous,” Marzia says. “Usually after two hours the swelling of the umbilical cord is reduced and then the plastic clamp is loosened. If the mother doesn’t check the umbilical cord regularly, the baby may die due to bleeding.” Using the tie included in the kit is much safer than clamps, and the umbilical cord will usually dry safely within three days.

In her consultation with Bibishah, Marzia highlights the importance of post-natal care and gives the young woman practical advice to ensure a clean and safe delivery. She helps Bibishah to map local clinics and birthing sites where her delivery can be attended by a midwife or community health worker. She also advises Bibishah on ways to optimise maternal and child health – including vaccinations, hygiene and sanitation and healthy eating.

When the consultation ends, Bibishah departs the clinic with a clean birthing kit in her hands and an understanding of the importance of pre- and post-natal care. Confident and informed, she is empowered to protect her health and that of her newborn.

A pregnant woman holding a birthing kit donated by World Vision

 

Thank you, Birthing Kit Foundation Australia

In celebration of Mother’s Day and in recognition of the life-saving impact of clean birthing kits, we would like to thank Birthing Kit Foundation Australia. Your passion and commitment is key to empowering mothers to protect their health and that of their children. Together, we’re working to support brighter and healthier futures for mothers around the world.

 

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to support our partnership with Birthing Kit Foundation Australia, you can host a Birthing Kit Assembly Day! An Assembly Day is a gathering of friends, family or colleagues to assemble clean birthing kits. Whether a birthday, baby shower or Mother’s Day celebration, Assembly Days are a great way to contribute to life-saving impact for mothers and their children. For more information, please contact Birthing Kit Foundation Australia at bookings@bkfa.org.au .

 

Gabrielle Bourke Gabrielle Bourke

Gabrielle supports the acquisition and integration of high-impact, field-driven resources at World Vision Australia.

 

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