Each year, 25,000 women in Ethiopia die during childbirth or as the result of complications. Around 80% of expectant mothers give birth at home, without any professional help. The country is keen to reduce the mortality rate among both mothers and new-borns.
Reducing the maternal mortality rate will be a particular challenge, but Ethiopia can now count on the support of Mango Consult. This Dutch organisation runs projects in which local health centres are equipped to perform Caesarean sections and blood transfusions. Before long, the centres will also provide free prenatal care to women with a high risk profile.
Mango Consult has achieved all this with the help of the Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO programme), funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and administered by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl)
Hygienic conditions and expert staff
Wessel Eijkman, founder of Mango Consult, describes this remarkable project. "We exist to improve social conditions in the developing countries. In this case, the aim is to reduce maternal mortality in Ethiopia. Various complications can arise during childbirth, placing the lives of both mother and infant at risk. Approximately half of these complications can be avoided altogether by delivering the baby by Caesarean section. This calls for hygienic conditions and expert medical staff. Thanks to the ORIO subsidy, we can ensure that local health centres will soon be able to offer both."
"In the rural areas, few people have access to transport. Women with a high risk profile must be able to reach a health centre in good time. Soon they will be able to stay in special accommodation nearby while they await the birth itself."
Prior experience with the ORIO programme
A project such as this demands good preparation. "The Dutch embassy in Addis Ababa put us in touch with the Ethiopian Minister of Health. We presented a very brief plan – one A4 page – which explained how our project would help the country achieve its aim of reducing perinatal mortality. We had prior experience with the ORIO programme and knew that there was a good chance of securing the necessary funding. This was enough to persuade the minister, who designated a region in which to develop the project plans."
Mothers are often the family providers
The project is notable for its outreach. "Hospital care is expensive and generally only available to those who live nearby. The local health centres are something between a full-scale hospital and a doctor’s surgery. By upgrading the centres, Ethiopia can reach far more people at the same – or lower – cost. This is essential, since mothers are very important, not least in Africa where the women are often the family providers. A family without a mother is a family with a serious socio-economic problem."
Good contact with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency
Wessel Eijkman describes contacts with the Agency as ‘excellent’. "Staff are always willing to schedule an appointment at short notice. They know all the ins and outs of the various funding programmes. Some even came to Ethiopia to see exactly what we are doing there. It is marvellous that programmes such as ORIO exist to help Ethiopia solve one of its most pressing health problems. Our project is to be rolled out in two regions. Funding for one, Oromia, has already been approved and the application for the other, Amhara, is currently under consideration."