The Lera Health Centre is one of five health centres located in Damot Pulasa, Ethiopia. In the past, most pregnant mothers in this area preferred to give birth at home because they believed that traditional birth attendants provided better care than most health professionals. Traditional birth attendants also spread this message and would only refer pregnant mothers to hospitals or health centres after a long labour with complications. Many mothers and unborn children died as a consequence of delays, unsterile environments, a lack of clean water, and unskilled attendants. These mothers had little knowledge about the services health centres could provide in skilled delivery as well as prenatal and postnatal care.
Christian Children's Fund of Canada's IMPACT* project, in partnership with the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency, began to change life for families in Damot Pulasa by focusing on the reduction of maternal and child deaths. As part of this project, a four-day training workshop was provided to 40 traditional birth attendants in the Lera Health Centre. The training has brought a significant change in the knowledge and understanding among the traditional birth attendants. They have informed project staff that they now have a grasp of the risks of home delivery to the mother, the baby, and to themselves, as well as the added values of institutional deliveries such as their access to proper equipment and clean water tanks.
Immediately after the training, the traditional birth attendants began educating and referring pregnant women (including their own daughters and daughters-in-law) to the Lera Health Centre and are accompanying them for prenatal care, postnatal care, and delivery services. They are also conducting follow-up visits to mothers who recently gave birth to encourage postnatal care visits to the health facility.
IMPACT project staff have been informed that Lera Health Centre used to only serve a maximum of five or six prenatal care clients, one or two skilled deliveries, and one or two clients for postnatal care services per month. This number has now increased to 56 prenatal care clients and 11 skilled delivery and postnatal care clients per month.
Based on the encouraging, early results and the upward trajectory recorded to date, Christian Children's Fund of Canada is optimistic that the pregnant mothers in targeted communities will continue to seek institutional services before, during, and after pregnancy.
*IMPACT is an acronym for, "Improving Maternal and Child Health: Partnership and Action for Community Transformation."