How savings groups are helping women deliver in health facilities
Posted Monday, June 30 2014 at 01:00
With many women dying in childbirth because they cannot afford costs to reach a health facility, or even pay for their medical bills, a new innovation is helping to change things, and women are embracing it.
Edisa Babaranda, a resident of Nawanende Village in Kamuli District, lost her child during labour as a result of a delay in accessing a health facility.
Babaranda knew that she would need money when time to deliver came, but she did not do anything about it. She was hoping her husband would provide the financial support she would need.
Unfortunately, when the labour pains started, her husband was not at home.
But hours later when he returned home, he was drunk and did not have any money to transport his wife to the health facility—about 10 kilometres away from their home.
Babaranda is a housewife with no source of income. At the time of delivery, her neighbour attempted to help her deliver from home, but hours of intense labour passed without success. And so a solution had to be found as soon as possible.
Role of VHTs
A Village Health Team (VHT) member was called to help. VHTs serve as the primary village-level health contact person for all villages across the country. The VHT member wrote a referral note, mobilised money and hired a motorcycle to take Babaranda to Nawanende Health Centre III. At this point, it was clear she had developed obstructed labour.
At the health centre, the only midwife on duty said she could not handle Babaranda’s case and advised she be taken to Kamuli District hospital. However, she did not have money to be moved to the hospital.
When Babaranda eventually got to the hospital, it was too late. That is when the baby died.
According to the World Health Organisation, most maternal deaths result from delays in making a decision on whether to seek care or not, previous bad experiences at health facilities, lack of money, long distances, and facilities that lack equipment and staff.
Put together, all these factors played a part in Babaranda’s predicament. And this situation is not unique to women in Kamuli District.
To address the problem, researchers at Makerere University’s School of Public Health have designed a programme called MANIFEST. It encourages women to start saving money as soon as they find out they are pregnant.
The money is then used to pay for transport costs to the health facility and buy things such as clothes, as well as pay additional bills that may arise at the time of delivery.
According to the programme coordinator, Moses Tetui, this approach allows women in the communities to take charge of their health by saving money that they can use in the event of an emergency.
“The project does not only work to save mothers and their newborns, it also empowers communities. It offers a more friendly and sustainable way to address maternal and child health using the little resources we have,” says Tetui.
For instance, through the savings system, Tetui says a mother identifies a group, joins it, and then starts saving money. The amount deposited depends on how much she has at hand at any particular time.
So when an expectant mother goes into labour, she will be able to call a designated boda boda rider, who then takes her to the facility.