At 23, pregnant with triplets, Cynthia John was about to give birth for the first time. Then something went wrong. Four lives hung in the balance.
In search of help, Cynthia’s family rushed her through the dusty streets of rural Ugboro. They feared the worst.
Giving birth is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. Despite medical advancements, 295,000 women still die every year during pregnancy and childbirth—23% of these women die in Nigeria.
Did Cynthia know the odds were against her? Did she know that when a woman dies, her newborn may be much more likely to die than survive? These questions speak to the unrelenting loss of life that I believe is a stain on our humanity—because we know how to keep women like Cynthia alive.
To dramatically reduce maternal and newborn death, we need a comprehensive, proven model for effectively addressing the three delays in getting life-saving care for mothers and newborns. Today, I believe we have it.
In Cross River State, Saving Mothers Giving Life
Between 2015 and 2019, through the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) Initiative, and in close partnership with the government of Cross River State, Pathfinder and the Evidence to Action (E2A) Project adapted a model to ensure pregnant women and their newborns get the high-quality care they need—when they need it most.
✔️ADDRESSING DELAY 1: RECOGNIZING THE NEED TO SEEK CARE AND MAKING DECISIONS TO DO SO
The project created linkages with community-based health organizations and community health volunteers, supported community outreaches, and strengthened community-facility relations. Supporting 108 health facilities, our efforts contributed to these results:
Facilities strengthened their linkages with communities and increased demand for services.
PERCENT OF FACILITIES THAT CARRY OUT COMMUNITY OUTREACH TO INCREASE DEMAND FOR SERVICES
More women attended maternal and newborn health (MNH) services.
PERCENTAGE CHANGE IN FACILITY ATTENDANCE FOR MNH SERVICES
✔️ADDRESSING DELAY 2: PHYSICALLY ACCESSING CARE WHEN NEEDED
To ensure more women can reach facility-based maternity services in a safe and timely manner, we scaled-up emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC) to additional sites, supported the development of emergency transport systems, and strengthened referral systems. As a result…
Women didn’t need to travel as far to get life-saving care.
92% GEOGRAPHIC COVERAGE WITHIN TWO HOURS FROM A FACILITY WITH EMONC SERVICES
More women were able to access free transportation for a referral should a complication arise, and the referral system grew stronger.
AVAILABILITY OF VOUCHERS/FUNDS AT FACILITIES TO PAY FOR EMERGENCY REFERRALS
✔️ADDRESSING DELAY 3: RECEIVING APPROPRIATE CARE AT THE HEALTH FACILITY
The project supported improvements to facility infrastructure, trained and mentored facility staff, provided equipment and supplies, and strengthened the commodity supplies management system. Travel time analysis for the 108 supported facilities indicated a coverage area of 18,998.01 km²—which means that 92% of the state is within the recommended two-hour travel radius for EmONC services to an SMGL facility.
As a result…
More health facilities offer the obstetric and newborn care services needed for women and newborns facing life-threatening complications. And the quality of care has improved.
IMPROVED QUALITY OF MNH CARE
More women were able to get the comprehensive services they need, including postpartum family planning.
INCREASED USE OF FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES
And ultimately, through this comprehensive approach, more women and newborns survived.
Cynthia was one of these surviving women. Her story shows the power of a robust community and health systems response:
✔️ Cynthia arrived at a facility supported by the community’s emergency transport system and was seen by a project-trained provider who immediately referred Cynthia to the General Hospital Ogoja.
✔️ A village leader—also engaged in the project—used his vehicle to transport Cynthia and her family to the hospital, where she underwent surgery and delivered healthy triplets.
✔️ When Cynthia lost too much blood, the village leader rushed back to the community and rallied volunteer blood donors to the facility to save Cynthia’s life.
Today, Cynthia and her children are healthy.
Their family—like so many families kept whole with the help of this project—inspires me to say this as loudly as I can: The Saving Mothers, Giving Life model should be adopted and replicated in other parts of Nigeria and other countries with high burden of maternal and newborn mortality.
And it should happen now.
GET MORE INFORMATION
Now you can learn about our work in Nigeria supporting first-time parents, like Cynthia, and her family. See how we delivered results by focusing on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, family planning, exclusive breastfeeding, positive parenting, and related gender outcomes for young first-time parents.