It is said in Tanzania that “A mother is a great army.” We interpret that to refer to the strength and resolve needed to raise children in challenging circumstances – not unlike raising an army in any developing country. Our experience with pregnant women and mothers in the Ukwega Ward of Tanzania informs us of their determination to train for better performance, embrace new technologies, and promote enhanced practices to ensure their children receive the best start in life they can give them. What more could be asked of a powerful army?
Global Volunteers’ “army of mothers” in the Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) are a dynamic force within the community for raising the standard of health and well-being for all families. We continually strive to support their vision and meet their needs to raise healthy children. One major effort receiving funding is a House for New Moms in Ipalamwa – on the campus of the RCP Health Center and Ipalamwa General Clinic. The Peter J. King Foundation recently awarded Global Volunteers with the funds to begin construction of safe accommodations for mothers to labor and rest before and after childbirth. Read on for details on this important project to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Tanzania.
Maternal and child health in the Tanzanian villages where Global Volunteers works has been a driving impetus for new interventions for the RCP Program since 2017. The Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC), opened in 2018, provides scheduled and quality prenatal and postnatal care, well-baby check ups, and immunizations. But until now, many RCP mothers haven’t given birth at the IGC because of the distance of their homes from the clinic in villages up to 90 minutes out in the Ukwega Ward. Once in labor, many mothers cannot count on arriving at the clinic in time for a safe delivery. The new Peter J. King Home for New Moms will provide safe and comfortable accommodations for village mothers before and after delivery, and will replace the volunteer guest house that has been re-purposed while volunteers were absent during the pandemic, and add a critical element to an already comprehensive approach supporting children throughout their lives.
Meeting a Pressing Need at A Critical Time
While its customary for women to deliver their babies at home or local dispensaries in rural villages, it’s often not the safest option. Home birth can be a treacherous experience for mothers in Tanzania. Furthermore, because women care for other family members and often work in the fields up until their labor, mothers typically don’t leave home to deliver at the clinic. Predicting a mother’s due date is imprecise in developing countries, and by the time they encounter difficulties during labor or delivery, the one-hour trip to the clinic on rough and rutted mountain roads is too dangerous to attempt. Too often, they and their children suffer preventable complications or die due to these conditions and the lack of care by a qualified health professional.
A new model of care and housing for laboring moms revealed itself during the pandemic with the empty rooms of the guest house, normally reserved for lodging volunteers. Once the accommodations were re-purposed, the mothers expressed tremendous appreciation for being close to the IGC – reducing labor fears and preventable childbirth problems associated with risky travel and offering interventions by medical staff.
With the funding from the Peter J. King Foundation, Global Volunteers will construct a permanent new mothers’ residence at the RCP Center, immediately adjacent to the IGC. Moms will be encouraged to stay in the facility up to ten days before their delivery date to mitigate the risks of home delivery or complications en route to the clinic.
Global Volunteers’ architect has begun work on the design for the approximately 2,800 ft. single-story structure, which will be constructed within a short walking distance to the clinic, connected by a concrete walkway so women can be pushed in wheelchairs if necessary. A Tanzanian contractor will construct the building under the supervision of Global Volunteers Tanzania Country Director Nayman Chavalla. The exterior design will be consistent with all other buildings at the RCP Center.
Mothers are Grateful for “Excellent IGC Services” & Comfortable Lodging
RCP mom Agness Tula from Ipalamwa explains what the services at IGC are for her: “I thank God that the program has come to our village. Our lives have been assured to some extent because we can get great health services quickly. Formerly, we were just thinking of going to Iringa for the birth of our children, which was very costly and high-risk because most babies were delivered on the way, and sometimes mothers or babies die. But since the program is here, we are benefiting from a lot of services and for free. The services are great at the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC). Even in Iringa, where we usually pay money, there are no great services as here. The reception is also the best, and the clinic has professionals, which is also a benefit. Whenever I go to IGC, I feel comfortable and satisfied with their services.”
The 4,320-ft.² IGC has state-of-the-art medical equipment, including ultrasound, fetal monitor, birthing table, incubator, infant warmer, delivery room, and a four-bed maternity ward. In addition, the facility includes two consultation rooms, two observation rooms, immunization room, oral surgery room, laboratory, dressing room, injection room, pharmaceutical dispensary, records room, and a reception area along with an 1,152 ft.² covered exterior waiting area.
“The greatest medical challenges in the villages are proper medical care and medicines. Some of the villagers are not used to modern medicine. They rely on traditional medicine, so I often see them in their worst state after the traditional medicine has failed them. Once a patient makes it to IGC, there are a lot of medications and services that were not available previously to them for their treatment.”– Benjamin Eliot Makafu, IGC Doctor-In-Charge
Magret Mpalanzi from Ukwega village joined the RCP Program in February 2021. She is expecting her first child and is currently staying at the guest house. She says, “It was a great opportunity for me to be able to stay here because it is rainy season and I was worried about what would happen to me if I faced any difficulties during my delivery. I was thinking about the possibility of the transportation not being able to reach Ukwega village if the roads were in bad conditions because of the mud. When my RCP Caregiver offered for me to stay here, I was thankful and was thinking that I will be safe.”
She continues, “I am so happy to stay here and I don’t have stress since I am under medical care. The services are good and everything is well organized here. I am attended to by the medical staff every day and they care for me very well. I have been given meals and have made friends with the staff. Everyone is happy for me so I feel very happy.”
Magret says her favorite thing about staying at the guest house is seeing everything that is done at the RCP Center and learning new things. As a new member of the program, she is taking in the different aspects of RCP. She greatly enjoyed watching the staff plant EarthBoxes during her stay.
Delila Msemwa from Ukwega village joined the RCP Program in March 2020 and stayed at the guest house in November 2020 when she was expecting her first child. Delila said then of the experience, “I felt very happy to be offered the opportunity to stay at the guest house and my parents were very happy as well because I would be near clinic services. This is my first pregnancy and I have been coming to the Ipalamwa General Clinic for services since the first day. The knowledge I have been provided throughout my pregnancy has been very helpful. My RCP Caregiver advised me that if I noticed anything different about myself or how I felt, I should go to the clinic right away.”
“If I were staying at home prior to my delivery, I would just be cooking and fetching water and doing other light work. The big difference is that I would not be able to get clinic services easily as I would be far away and I would be at risk.”
“The services are great here – everything from food, accommodation, and the clinic services, which are very professional. The place is very comfortable and satisfying. And I love the fact that water is always available and the bathroom inside the room is the easiest. Everyone is so friendly, kind, and welcoming. I love everything about the guest house because there are no challenges.”
Oliva Kitosi from Ukwega village joined the RCP Program in July 2020 when she was six months pregnant with her first child. In September-October 2020 she stayed at the guesthouse before delivering a beautiful baby girl, Vainessa Makai, on October 2. Oliva said during her stay, “I was so excited to see what it is like to be here and I’m finally here, enjoying the good environment of the area. I feel safe to be here because I can get help as fast as possible when the labor pain starts. I love the food that they give me here and the accommodation. I’m also happy because when I’m here I get time off from work.”
“I feel safe to be here because I can get help as fast as possible when the labor pain starts.”– Olivia Kikosi, RCP mom from Ukwega
IGC Nurse-Midwife Selemani Salim explains the goal of the house for expecting mothers: “One of the goals is to minimize morbidity and mortality of the mother and child since some of the pregnancies may show no signs of complication during antenatal care until labor commences, and since the chance of a home and on-the-way deliveries may be there so the deaths of mother and child may also happen. Another issue that the House for New Moms will resolve will be the delay in communicating with the medical staff. This is due to the fact that not all mothers possess phones, live close to the neighbors with phones, their batteries run out, or have no credits to call caregivers. All these failures to communicate with a health professional may compromise the operation, and the outcome may be worse.”
Global Volunteers drivers pick up mothers at their homes in our jeep approximately a week before their due dates. This early arrival allows the medical staff to assess the pregnancy to determine if the baby is in the breech position or if the mom is undernourished, dehydrated, or weak. Mothers-in-residence will receive three nutritious meals daily and be monitored and supported by the RCP staff and attended by the medical professionals at the IGC. After the baby is born, the mother can stay at this comfortable facility for as long as necessary. She will receive support and education on her baby’s care and feeding.
“It would be difficult to get the clinic services easily if I were at home because the clinic is far, and I would be at risk since it is my 8th pregnancy. I attended prenatal care at IGC, and it was my first time to have such good services. It surprised me to have a free ultrasound and other services at IGC. With my other children, I had never experienced such kind of services.”– Tuendi Kipemba, RCP mom from Ukwega
The targeted population includes 1,200 families, approximately 7,500 people, from villages in and around Ukwega Ward. Based on the average number of births during the past three years, we expect between 320 and 340 births annually, approximately one delivery daily. Assuming each mother will spend on average eight days at the house, six days before their delivery and two after, we need to provide 2720 room days annually, which can be accommodated by four double-occupancy rooms. Of course, babies don’t come on any schedule, and some mothers will stay longer and others for shorter periods. Consequently, the house is being designed to include five bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, and a common dining and sitting area with a half-bath.
“Global Volunteers, unlike many nonprofit organizations that work in developing countries, has invested an incredible amount of time, energy and resources to establishing a permanent presence in the area. They are committed to the long term viability of its Tanzania programs and will support them in the best way they can well into the future. We are confident that our investment is being applied in the most beneficial way possible.”Frank Thomas of the Thomas Ohana Foundation
Global Volunteers is thrilled to be able to carry out this important, life-saving project in Tanzania in partnership with the Peter J. King Foundation. Future volunteers will be able to serve mothers at this new facility as well as in their homes as usual. Meanwhile, we continue raising funds for services and supports for new mothers such as examinations, vaccinations, prenatal care and nutritious meals through our online gift catalog. You can contribute to moms’ and babies’ care and health in several ways:
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