Direct Relief

Increasing Essential Resource Capacity to Improve Maternal and Newborn Care

Maternal and perinatal health

Direct Relief will train midwives and equip maternal health facilities in Africa with critical supplies in partnership with the International Confederation of Midwives.

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Project Summary

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 27 newborns died per 1,000 live births in 2017, and nearly 550 mothers died per 100,000 livebirths in 2015, the highest rates in any region of the world by each measure. The leading causes of these high rates of mortality are both well-known and preventable. Positive birth outcomes, however, are highly dependent on the presence of trained midwives or healthcare professionals who have access to critical medicines and supplies. By providing maternal health facilities with expertly vetted medical resource kits, Direct Relief will ensure that providers can treat health complications related to pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery which often have consequences for both mother and child. In addition to providing material resources, Direct Relief will work closely with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) to ensure global standards of midwife training, fund scholarships for midwives in need of training, and assure resourcing needs are met.

Problem Statement

In much of the developing world, pregnancy and childbirth can be a death sentence. About 3 million mothers and newborns die each year of preventable causes, with most occurring in the first 24 hours after birth. 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, and the inequities are more pronounced in Africa. The reason is a major lack of trained and equipped skilled birth attendants. In 2015, 44 percent of all births in developing regions were not attended by a skilled health professional. Studies show that a properly equipped skilled birth attendant can cut newborn deaths by almost half (43 percent) and save two-thirds of mothers who die due to lack of proper care. While the leading causes of maternal and newborn mortality are understood -- as are the interventions and supplies needed to address them – not enough providers are properly trained, and those who are trained are not adequately equipped with the medicines and tools they need to respond to maternal health issues throughout pregnancy, childbirth, labor, and delivery. In many high-burden countries, more skilled training is needed, and those who are trained need the essential medical resources to save lives. To effect these necessary changes, additional educational opportunities must be afforded to local healthcare providers and it is essential that they be appropriately equipped with resources. This small change of resourcing the trained midwives will yield high impact in saving lives and transforming maternal and newborn care in communities in Africa.

Solution Overview

Direct Relief will increase the material and human resource capacity of leading maternal health facilities in Africa towards the provision of preventive, ongoing, and emergency treatment of women and newborns. Starting in Uganda and Somaliland, Direct Relief will provide, free of charge, a packaged combination of resources – expertly curated and vetted, and each containing a complementary array of medicines and supplies that equip providers to deliver a range of interventions. Direct Relief’s solution will fill resource gaps related to complications related to maternal, perinatal, post-partum, and neonatal care . The range of resources includes prenatal vitamins for pregnant women, medicines and supplies to enable safe births, life-saving medications to prevent post-partum hemorrhage and premature birth, equipment for newborns who need help to breathe, items for doctors to conduct emergency cesarean sections, and supplies to repair the most severe birth complication – obstetric fistula. Direct Relief will apply its 71-year proven approach in collaboration with experts to meet global standards for educated midwives and trained healthcare professionals who are responsible for a woman’s care. Utilizing existing donation and procurement channels along with a network of pharmaceutical and logistics companies, the delivery of resources will be scaled to underserved communities throughout Africa. To address the human capacity challenge, Direct Relief will also work closely with ICM to provide scholarships for training to expand the available workforce for midwifery in identified areas and improve the knowledge and skills of working midwives who provide critical maternal and newborn care.

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Project Funders

  • Crown Family Philanthropies 2017 - 2019
  • Crown Family Philanthropies (Pending) 2019 - 2021
  • Crown Family Philanthropies (Pending) 2019 - 2021

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