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Reaching Zero Percent

New health clinics in Burundi are helping to save the lives of mothers and their babies. Photo: Zaida Bastos

January 29, 2016

By Simon Chambers

In 2012, the Diocese of Bujumbura in Burundi (a partner with PWRDF and the government of Canada in maternal, newborn and child health work) did a survey in 29 rural villages where they were about to begin a new program.  At that time, they found that a staggering 12% of babies died during childbirth.  The program’s goal was to cut that number by more than half to 5% over 5 years.

Over the last three years, the Diocese has trained and equipped Safe Motherhood Promoters who have worked in the villages, accompanying pregnant women, talking to families about spacing their pregnancies, encouraging women to give birth under the care of trained health care staff, teaching the importance of proper nutrition, and ensuring that mothers and their babies are vaccinated.

Thanks to the efforts of the promoters, the health staff, and the people of the 29 villages, during the period from April through September, 2015, the infant mortality rate in the region dropped to 0%.  During that period, 1536 women were pregnant, and 597 of those women gave birth.  Over 97% of those births occurred at a medical facility, attended by a health professional.  73% of the newborns underwent the complete vaccination regimen.

The Diocesan program’s nutrition component has also had very positive results.  Over 9000 people were trained in good nutrition during the same six months in the 29 villages, learning about the importance of a balanced diet and how to feed malnourished children.  91% of the children who entered this program suffering from malnutrition recovered thanks to these efforts.

The nutrition program also incorporated women’s health and family planning, hygiene, and other educational components, giving the women who attended information on child spacing, sexual and reproductive health, sanitation and hygiene.  They also encouraged the mothers to join agricultural associations in their villages to support each other in growing food for their families.