By: Madeline Taskier, Partnership Coordinator at Women Deliver
Early marriage, combined with high levels of illiteracy, poor health services and poverty, have pushed Yemen's maternal mortality rate to the highest in the Arab world – 1 in 91 women will die during pregnancy and childbirth in Yemen. In a country where a woman will give birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime, access to family planning services, local midwives, and quality health centers is essential to combating the nutritional deficiencies, infection during delivery, and unintended pregnancies that many Yemeni women face. In an effort to expand family planning options and safe delivery services in the region, USAID has partnered with Pathfinder International through the Basic Health Services Program (BHS). Operating in 5 governorates in north and eastern Yemen, the BHS program aims to renovate health facilities, improve the supply of maternal health commodities and services, and involve local leaders in reproductive health education.
To ensure that women can access both health facilities and life-saving health services, the BHS program renovates existing facilities – they provide new medical supplies, construct additional emergency obstetric wards, and build accommodations to house health providers. They also dispatch a mobile health care team to the rural areas of Yemen to distribute contraceptives and antenatal nutritional supplements to women in need. Since 2005, 24 of the planned health facilities have been renovated and 12 mobile teams operate in the 5 governorates. The newly renovated facilities, in addition to an existing 200 facilities in the region, now host monthly family planning and antenatal care clinics.
In addition to improving health facilities, the BHS strengthens midwifery services in partnership with the Yemeni Midwives Association. Acknowledging that many Yemeni women will choose to deliver at home, BHS provides business skills training to private midwives in rural areas with the goal of improving quality and encouraging women who give birth in their homes to use a local, private, trained midwife who has strong links with government health centers. In a South-to-South partnership, a group of Yemeni midwives traveled to work with the Uganda Private Midwives Association sharing experience and bringing best practices back to Yemen.
Pathfinder International has also tapped into the key educators of the community, local religious leaders, to disseminate family planning and reproductive health messages during Friday mosque sermons and community meetings. To date, 115 male and 54 female religious leaders have received training and presented on reproductive health topics such as family planning methods, nutrition during pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
With more facilities, a mobile maternal health service distributing contraception, religious leaders engaging the community, and more trained midwives, the Basic Health Services Program brings integrated service delivery and health education to rural Yemeni women’s doorsteps -- promoting healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries.
- Check out the Basic Health Services Project from Pathfinder and USAID.
- Check out a profile of Pregnancy in Yemen in the online Global Health Magazine.