By: Mariko Rasmussen, Communications Specialist at Women Deliver
As in many African countries, women in Mozambique often give birth outside of a health facility. Factors leading to this decision include having difficult access to health services, being scared of how they will be treated at a health facility, and feeling more comfortable delivering at home. But, when complications occur at home, women and babies are much less likely to receive the appropriate, life-saving care they need. Mozambique’s government and partners are working to change this trend by improving health care delivery through the Model Maternities Initiative (MMI). The goal of MMI is to improve maternal and newborn health care services while providing a supportive environment in which women give birth.
USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), led by Jhpiego, is bolstering the Ministry of Health’s nationwide initiative begun in October 2009 in the country’s largest emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities. The program aims to provide a supportive environment by encouraging women to have a companion join them in the birth process, to practice skin-to-skin contact between mother and child, and to initiate immediate breastfeeding after childbirth. Since the program began, MMI has been established in 34 of the busiest hospitals with emergency obstetric services, which account for 21 percent of all births in health care facilities nationwide, and the number of Mozambican women who choose to give birth in a health facility with a skilled birth attendant has increased.
MMI is showing measurable improvements in health care policy and service delivery. To date, 318 skilled birth attendants have been taught emergency obstetric and newborn care skills and family planning. As a result of this capacity building, health care services have been strengthened dramatically according to key indicators tracked by participating hospitals. For example, almost 90 percent of women with pre-eclampsia/eclampsia were treated with magnesium sulfate, an effective, inexpensive, and safe intervention that prevents serious life-threatening birth complications. MCHIP-assisted programs, in partnership with the MOH, have developed 15 separate maternal, newborn and child health strategies, standards and guidelines that can be used nationwide.
Another key component of MMI is the integration of reproductive health and family planning services with the country’s first ever national cervical cancer prevention program. Cervical cancer screening units are now available in nine rural and six referral health facilities as a result of the integration of services in the new national protocol. So far, nearly 5,000 women have been screened. The majority of those women that tested positive for pre-cancerous cells received treatment on the same day – an important step forward in treating women who can’t easily access the health facilities. Cervical cancer can be prevented, and treated successfully if symptoms are caught early, and integrating cervical cancer screenings with maternal health services is an important intervention in saving the lives of girls and women.