The Mother and Baby Survival Project - Ensuring Safe Childbirth in Rwanda
Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and civil war decimated the country’s economy and health care system. Today, one in every 77 births in Rwanda result in the death of the mother and 65 out every 1,000 infants die before their first birthday as a result of infections related to unhygienic birthing conditions.
The Mother and Baby Survival Project, conceived by TIME Magazine, seeks to ensure safer childbirth in Rwanda by using TIME, CNN and Netaid.org to call attention to the critical needs of expectant mothers in Rwanda and to inform the public about ways to help.
“Not only do we think that the plight of mothers and children in Rwanda makes compelling journalism,” says TIME’s World Editor Joshua Cooper Ramo, “but we wanted to show our readers how easy it is to make a difference in places that are far from home.”
On April 9, CNN aired a companion report on the health needs of Rwanda’s pregnant women and their babies as seen through the eyes of Dr.d’Harcourt. In the program “Small Triumph,” d’Harcourt stresses that very basic hygienic supplies can mean the difference between life and death for many Rwandan mothers and newborns. “The mortality rates are staggering, but what’s more staggering is that most of these deaths are preventable.” The show highlights a project that d’Harcourt helped develop, to provide pregnant Rwandan women with birthing kits aimed at making home deliveries safer. The IRC is distributing the items and local birth attendants are assembling the kits. However, d’Harcourt points out that even the most basic sanitary supplies are beyond the means of most Rwandan women.
“Rwandan Sorrow,” an article published in TIME Magazine on April 10, tells the tragic tale of a young Rwandan couple who meet and marry as refugees and return to Rwanda to try to rebuild their lives. But for this couple, like so many in Rwanda, “pregnancy becomes tantamount to a death sentence.” TIME interviews IRC pediatrician Emmanuel d’Harcourt who discusses the challenges in trying to save the lives of pregnant women and newborns in a country with virtually no health-care system and no pre-natal care. “There’s so little room for error and the resources are so scarce,” says d’Harcourt, who trains health care workers and birth attendants in Rwanda’s Kibungu area.
The project provides a tangible way for people to directly improve the lives of women and infants in Rwanda. Internet users can go to <www.netaid.org> and donate money for a variety of childbirth survival kits that will be purchased by the IRC and distributed to clinics and IRC-trained midwives and health workers. The most basic kit, with sanitary items for home birthing, costs $8. Two additional kits, which cost $170 and $905, provide medical equipment, drugs, and instruments for complicated deliveries in health clinics. A final kit, which costs $6,500, will enable health centers to handle childbirth emergencies. The IRC will make the kits available to expectant mothers for a nominal fee of $0.75, on an on-going basis, in order to create a sustainable life-saving program for Rwandan women and their infants.
The IRC Rwanda program has been working with the Rwandan Ministry of Health since 1994 to improve the delivery of health services to the Rwandan people. The extensive training of traditional birth attendants, nurses, and other local health care workers is part of the IRC’s long-term effort to lower child and maternal mortality rates and promote and improve the health of women and children in Rwanda.