Creating a healthy start for mothers and babies

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Have you ever thought about where your mother give birth to you? Was it a hospital or birthing center? And how did she get there? Did she take the subway, family car or the city bus? Did she have a skilled birth attendant with her—a doctor, nurse or midwife? Most of the expectant mothers in the highlands of rural Ethiopia have to walk to get to a health center to give birth with a skilled birth attendant. The walk is not on flat sidewalks. It is more what we might think of as a hike, on dirt roads and paths up and down hills and mountains.

Transportation challenges is one of the factors that lead to maternal death during childbirth in rural Ethiopia. Safe childbirth is one of the important areas that Nuru Ethiopia’s healthcare team is focusing on to help create a healthy start for mothers and babies. The Healthcare team has started planning to work with the community to create and use maternal waiting homes that will allow mothers to stay close to the health center before labor.

Beyond safe childbirth, issues related to child survival in children under 5 are ones that can also affect the entire household. Having access to clean drinking water can mean avoiding waterborne diseases for the entire family, and for a young child, not getting severe diarrhea can be the difference between life and death in Ethiopia.

Nuru Ethiopia is launching a multifaceted Healthcare Program to prevent disease and promote maternal and child health. Since completing the co-created program planning process in July 2015, the Healthcare team has been hard at work, launching the Healthcare Program. Their recent activities include:

  • Officially presenting the healthcare program to Woreda officials
  • Revising, adapting and creating curriculum and appropriate visual aids
  • Introducing Nuru Ethiopia to all health centers, health posts, health extension workers and local leaders in intervention areas
  • Collecting community level information on existing water sources
  • Collaborating with the Ministry of Health for the first time on a Health Extension Worker training for Maternal and Child Health
  • Preparing for Nuru co-op level “Care Clubs” based on the care group model
Health Extension workers preparing for a servant leadership learning exercise at the October Maternal and Child Health training.

Health Extension workers preparing for a servant leadership learning exercise at the October Maternal and Child Health training.

Nuru Ethiopia’s first Maternal and Child Health training used the new government curriculum, which is significantly more interactive than the old curriculum. It also incorporated parts of Nuru’s servant leadership curriculum and the daily feedback culture Nuru brings to trainings.

Nuru Healthcare Manager Zelalem Abera and Nuru Leadership Trainer Temesgen Berihun facilitate a servant leadership learning exercise at the  October Maternal and Child Health training.

Nuru Healthcare Manager Zelalem Abera and Nuru Leadership Trainer Temesgen Berihun facilitate a servant leadership learning exercise at the October Maternal and Child Health training.

Nuru Ethiopia Healthcare is focused on creating healthy behavior change at the household level both via the government health system and through the Nuru co-op Care Clubs. Supporting change at a household level, the Healthcare Program will build capacity in local Health Extension Workers and build links between the different levels of the Ethiopian health care system. This will provide families with easier connections to services like post-natal care after childbirth, which can set a child off on a healthier path for a lifetime. Using existing water sources, access to safe water will be addressed with community support, and water purification products will be made more easily available.

Health extension workers drawing and discussing servant leadership's possible applications within the health structure.

Health extension workers drawing and discussing servant leadership’s possible applications within the health structure.

Narrowing in on mothers and children as vulnerable populations for whom simple interventions can make a big difference will allow Nuru Ethiopia to make a difference over the long-term that can reach and improve health for many families. Healthy households create healthy communities; and healthy communities have a greater chance of permanently overcoming extreme poverty.

Athena Childs Fleisher

About Athena Childs Fleisher

Healthcare Program Strategic Advisor — Athena comes to Nuru after more than a decade in the fields of international public health, disaster risk reduction, microfinance, and social business creation. During graduate school, she earned both an MBA and MPH from the University of Arizona.

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