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Marthe Uwizeyimana says she cannot compare delivery at home with a health facility delivery. “Before, even if I was with my mother-in-law, I had problems and many complications while and after giving birth,” says Marthe, who has had four pregnancies in eight years. Her third child died when he was still young. “At the fourth birth, I was at the health center, where things were clean. I can say that I was in good hands. Before, I was bleeding a lot after birth, but this time it was not the case.”
Although progress has been made, high maternal and child mortality rates are still of great concern to the Government of Rwanda and Rwandan communities. Many of these deaths can be prevented if pregnant mothers follow the recommended four antenatal care visits to a health professional and deliver at a health facility.
To encourage women to pursue prenatal treatment and delivery at a health facility, IntraHealth International launched the Healthy Mothers—Baby Basket Initiative at its Twubakane Program in Rwanda. For IntraHealth, a nonprofit organization funded primarily through government grants and support from private foundations, the initiative is unique as it is the first to be funded 100% by individuals committed to global health. Since its launch in May 2008, donors have contributed nearly $15,000 in support of the baskets, which cost $60.00 each.
Marthe was one of 14 women recognized in a special ceremony in January to congratulate new mothers who sought antenatal counseling and delivered their babies in a health facility in Nyaruguru District. The women received prizes, including buckets, umbrellas, baby clothes, flannel sheets and a t-shirt for the baby with the words “Navukiye kwa Muganga,” Kinyarwanda for “I was born in a health facility.”
At the ceremony, Rwanda’s Minister of Health Dr. Richard Sezibera congratulated the mothers on following their health care provider’s advice and encouraged women to space births through family planning to improve their own health and the health of their children.
“We have a very big challenge to reduce maternal and child mortality; we have to ensure that pregnancy is not a death hazard, but a chance to live for both the mother and the baby,” said Sezibera at the ceremony. “We cannot achieve this goal if we do not practice family planning.”
Marthe says she is now using a modern contraceptive method, as taking care of three children is enough. Another Baby Basket Initative recipient, Marcella Uwihoreye, also made different choices due to her community health worker’s advice.“I am a happy and healthy mother of my five-month-old baby girl, Umucyo Marie Priera, because of good counseling and the care I received at the health center during pregnancy and delivery,” she says.
This was Marcella’s first pregnancy. She credits both the staff of Ruramba Health Center and her village’s community outreach health worker for her healthy pregnancy and delivery. “I was so curious to know the status of my pregnancy at all stages, so I followed the advice that I got from the community health worker and the health care provider. When I was approaching the delivery time, I went to the health facility on time, because the nurse had advised me to come earlier. They helped me and did everything they could until I gave birth to my lovely girl,” she says proudly.
Twubakane, funded by USAID, supports health care provider trainings, health facility renovations, and community mobilization to support family planning, safe motherhood and child survival. IntraHealth continues to seek support from individual donors for the Baby Basket initiative in all 12 Twubakane-supported districts to encourage and reward expectant mothers and their communities.