The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) continues its partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) in new multimillion-dollar joint venture focusing on maternal and child health in Africa.
With a DFATD grant of $17.7 million, the PWRDF will contribute an anticipated $2.6 million over five years toward a sweeping health-care project in 350 villages in Burundi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania.
“PWRDF is deeply satisfied that DFATD has approved an ambitious proposal to scale up the work we are presently doing with them in three countries-Burundi, Mozambique and Tanzania-and adding Rwanda,” said Adele Finney, the PWRDF’s executive director, in a media release.
The program will reach more than 3.5 million women of reproductive age, as well as newborns, children under age five and men. It will include pre- and post-natal care for mothers, vaccinations, vitamin A supplementation and nutritious food for children. Its impact on men will be largely educational, according to Zaida Bastos, PWRDF manager for external funding programs such as the DFATD’s. “In many countries a woman needs authorization from her husband to see a doctor, and if he is not aware of the need for prenatal care, he will not allow it,” she said. Men also need to be educated about a woman’s nutritional needs “because, again, in many countries women are the last to eat.”
The new program grew out of the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, at which G-8 countries meeting in Canada in June 2010 and their non-G-8 partners committed a total of US $7.3 billion in global funding over the five years 2010-2015.
The substantial new funding will train health workers and birth attendants to dispense accurate advice on ante- and post-natal care, promote healthy habits, provide basic health care, identify high-risk pregnancies and refer women to government-run medical facilities. “We are very happy that the DFATD grant is so large-it’s a recognition the quality of the work we are doing,” said Bastos.
The DFATD-PWRDF funds will supply local health centres with essential equipment, dispensaries and nurses’ housing. Expectant mothers’ houses will be built so that women can come in before labour sets in and recuperate after delivery. They will provide mothers with rapid, affordable transportation to medical facilities, including bicycle and motorcycle ambulances. “Now, a pregnant woman may have to walk 10 to 20 kilometres in pain and she will be exhausted when she gets to the health facility,” said Bastos.
The project will also improve access to clean water and will mobilize village leadership and local communities carry out the work and, importantly, ensure gender equity. The latter concerns a woman’s reproductive rights and the need to protect her own body. “A wife shouldn’t have one child after another. She needs space,” said Bastos. “But for that to happen there have to be community and family discussions where men understand that it is to their advantage, that a healthier woman will be a healthier mum with healthier babies and will survive to care for them.”
As soon as the details are finalized and the contract with the DFATD signed, Bastos will be visiting the program’s on-the-ground partners in Africa, and the PWRDF will start releasing funds, possibly as soon as September. African partners include Village Health Works (Partners in Health) in Burundi, the Anglican Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania, the Association of Community Health (EHALE) in Mozambique and Inshuti Mu Buzima (Partners in Health) in Rwanda.
Each country will have a target for reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality based on its current rates and indicators. “As we accompany partners, and they accompany vulnerable people making lasting changes in their communities, we see more mothers and babies living and thriving through pregnancy, childbirth and the first years of life,” said Finney.
Thanks in part to such interventions, global maternal mortality dropped by almost 50% over the period 1990-2013, from 523,000 deaths in 1990 to 289,000 in 2013, according to the World Health Organization. And deaths for children under age five also dropped by about 50% .
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Bastos said.