The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world – one in twenty-four women die in child birth. These problems are most acute in the rural areas of DRC. Safe Motherhood began in 2000 to address these issues. HEAL Africa staff designed a unique community-based program to reduce infant, maternal and neonatal mortality through safe childbirth practices. And it has proven to be effective where implemented.
HEAL Africa’s Safe Motherhood Prenatal Care and Micro-Insurance program is an innovative initiative that increases access to health care for expectant mothers. Women can belong to maternity micro-insurance groups to ensure that they receive proper medical care from prenatal screening through delivery. Early screening and prenatal care is essential to identifying high-risk deliveries and assessing the needed care levels for birthing mothers.
The insurance groups are locally managed on a micro-level. Women of reproductive age pay into maternity micro-insurance groups that ensure that they can receive proper medical support through pregnancy, delivery and neo-natal care. Each member pays into the program and each member receives the needed support from an appropriate, health facility and from quality health providers—many of whom were trained by HEAL Africa medical staff.When it is a member’s time to deliver a child she receives the appropriate level of medical care,which might be from a re-trained traditional birth attendant, the local health center, or a local hospital.
Each maternity micro-insurance group starts with 8 – 10 members and a small grant of money for them to manage for their own childbirth costs. They receive training in family planning, in managing a small business, and in the concept of “Solidarity Groups”. They meet weekly, get to know each other and develop trust. Their husbands are invited to become involved in the classes on family planning.
The groups also to work together to arrange transportation for the women who need to go to the hospital or regional health center to deliver, since it may be two day walk to get to the facility.
The micro-group creates new ties in communities that have been split by war and mistrust. It provides a valuable service to the midwives who receive additional training, and who are invited to work in cooperation with nurses in the clinics. The nurses in the clinics also receive training and equipment that will help them provide good service to the women of the community.
Safe Motherhood is a program where everyone wins. Birthing mothers are assured that they will get the care they need. Traditional birth attendants receive updated training and inclusion in the process of midwifery. And all work in cooperation with the clinics. As the group members pay back their original start up grant, that amount is paid forward to start another maternity micro-insurance group, expanding access to maternity care for another 8 to 10 women. Preliminary findings show that in all the areas Safe Motherhood has begun, maternal mortality is dramatically reduced.