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A "Best Buy" for Saving Lives

This blog entry was originally published at ONE Blog.

Berthé Aissata Touré is a health worker in Mali, where women have an average of six children. In this country’s vast rural areas, childbirth complications are life-threatening. Touré is a frontline health worker, someone who’s often the only link to health care for people who live beyond the reach of hospitals and clinics. Referring her patients to a hospital in cases of hemorrhage isn’t much use—the trip is simply too long. “There is too much time to lose blood on the way,” Touré explains, and in the past “many women were lost.” She received training in a WHO-recommended technique to prevent excessive blood loss and was authorized to administer uterotonic drugs, a critical component of this lifesaving practice.

Childbirth should be miraculous, not deadly, a colleague once said. Skilled health workers like Touré save lives, yet access to them remains difficult or impossible for millions of people. According to the WHO, there is a global shortage of at least one million frontline health workers. 

Their absence means that many people may suffer and die needlessly. A woman perishes in labor. A child succumbs to pneumonia. A farmer is felled by malaria. The cost in disrupted families and lost productivity mounts. All of this can be prevented or treated by introducing a skilled health worker.

That’s why we’re proud to be part of a new coalition urging US leadership and investment in frontline health workers. The Frontline Health Workers Coalition includes 15 major global health organizations—including IntraHealth International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Save the Children—who are calling on the US government to train and support an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers. 

Touré’s ability to meet the critical needs of the mothers who rely on her for safely delivering their children can be the difference between a death and a miracle. Increasing the number of frontline health workers like her is a “best buy”—the most cost-effective way to save lives, improve the health of communities, and advance US economic and strategic interests. It can cost as little as $300 to train a frontline health worker in crucial lifesaving skills.

And US leadership makes good sense.Investing in frontline health workers in developing countries can advance US strategic interests by building more stable, prosperous communities in developing countries.

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Maternal health services in Mali

Maternal health services in Mali

Maternal health services in Mali

Maternal health services in Mali