We strive to improve health care and health outcomes in disadvantaged countries by:
- improving access to clean water and sanitation
- providing a safe environment for mothers and babies through birth clinics
- increasing access to health services for vulnerable and remote communities
- immunising, preventing and managing diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea
- treating, preventing and educating about HIV and AIDS
- educating health professionals so they can train community members
- empowering communities and strengthening governance so health services are equitable and sustainable.
Case study: Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, many women give birth at home because they live too far from a hospital or can’t afford the fees. If they do make the journey, it’s often by foot, or by ox-and-cart if they are in labour. They are almost 100 times more likely to die of birth complications than Australian women.
When Pauline was pregnant with her first son, Carlos, she was forced to make the long journey from her village in Kopondoro to the district hospital.
“I was in the hospital for two weeks and I had to sleep on the floor,” said Pauline. “I had to bring my own blankets and there was nowhere to cook my own food.”
By the time Pauline was pregnant with her second son, we had begun to work with our local partner, Community Technology Development Organisation, on a solution: a maternal waiting home.
With our support, Pauline’s whole community pitched in to build a life-saving maternal waiting home. Every household moulded 50 bricks for the home, submitting their bricks to the village chief, who kept records.
Pauline was the first to give birth in the home, delivering a health boy named Clive with the help of trained nurses. Prior to the birth, she walked just 1.5km to the home, where she could rest, cook and undergo pre-natal tests, including HIV testing.
“I had a bed and a place to cook food,” said Pauline. “I also participated in exclusive breastfeeding classes and I was taught to breastfeed the baby every two hours.”
Since the construction of the maternal waiting home, local authorities have reported a decrease in home births.
“The homes have become a forum for understanding the needs of women, from nutrition to how rest helps the growth of the foetus,” said Sister Dengezi, a community health nurse. “Sharing with each other in the homes also help women’s psychology. There is also a better adherence to exclusive breastfeeding, leading to improved infant survival.”