Celebrate Solutions: Zambia and Uganda Reduce Maternal Mortality by One Third in One Year

by: Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

Maternal mortality is regarded as an indicator of the overall functioning of health systems. That’s to say that when women are to dying in pregnancy and childbirth, it’s crucial to look at how services are delivered. The year one evaluation of Saving Mothers, Giving Life reveals a significant reduction in number of women dying in pregnancy & childbirth due to the a focus on services delivered at these critical points: labor, delivery, and the first 48 hours postpartum.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) is an ambitious five-year USAID-led public-private partnership to rapidly reduce maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, where many of these deaths occur. Eight districts in Zambia and Uganda have seen impressive and rapid results in just 12-months, revealing a 30% decrease in the maternal mortality ratio in target districts of Uganda and a 35% reduction in target facilities in Zambia.

Beginning in four districts each in Uganda and Zambia, SMGL successfully built upon existing maternal and child health programs, as well as HIV programs supported by PEPFAR, and integrated these services during its 12-month proof-of-concept phase. In close alignment with both governments’ national health plans, SMGL has put in place life-saving interventions that are making high-quality, safe childbirth services available and accessible to women and their newborns.

Maternal mortality fell sharply over the course of 12 months in SMGL facilities in Zambia. This reduction was driven by women’s increased access to and receipt of emergency obstetric care. In the pilot phase, the proportion of expected deliveries taking place at facilities in SMGL districts increased from 63% to 84%. In Zambia’s intervention districts, pregnancies were tracked from the antenatal period through labor, childbirth and postpartum at the facility-level. The series of indicators demonstrate rapid improvements in facilitates’ ability to deliver quality maternal and newborn care after one year of implementation.

Moreover, as HIV is becoming an increasingly common cause of pregnancy-associated deaths in Africa, SMGL is focused on effectively leveraging HIV and maternal and child health platforms for increased impact. The first year of the initiative resulted in substantial reductions in maternal deaths and improved maternal and perinatal health outcomes. There was also an increase in access to, and utilization of, HIV prevention, treatment and care services for mothers and their newborns.

According to an evaluation led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID, SMGL interventions have generated a range of positive outcomes associated with improved maternal health outcomes, including:

  • Rise in deliveries taking place in a health facility (62 percent increase in Uganda, 35 percent increase in Zambia)
  • Increased access to Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (200 percent increase in facilities offering emergency services in Uganda, 100 percent increase in facilities offering emergency services in Zambia)
  • Expanded testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS (28 percent increase in treatment for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Uganda, 18 percent increase in treatment for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Zambia)

To read more about Saving Mothers, Savings Lives, click on this press release.

Flickr photo via mflahertyphoto

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