“With the coming of GAiN, our knowledge has increased abundantly. I now can confidently save the life of the mother and the baby at birth.” – Eusebius, head doctor of Mandawa Health Center.
Since 2006, GAiN has provided access to clean water for medical clinics in Benin, Tanzania and Togo in order to increase the overall safety and quality of care given to patients. This strategy is rooted in the knowledge that having access to clean water and the Living Water can transform every part of one’s life for the better. At GAiN, we care deeply about how clean water affects the social, spiritual and economic culture of a village, but also how it can bring protection and physical restoration to the vulnerable. Anchored in our passion to see the whole person restored, GAiN developed the Saving Lives at Birth program, where staff at the clinics are being trained with knowledge and techniques for how to properly care for newborns and mothers in a safe and timely manner.
Our team visited the Mbekenyera Health Center in Tanzania, where we met with the assistant doctor in charge. When we asked him about the impact of the training, he said that the hospital staff used to have no knowledge about how to save a baby’s life, but now six birth attendants have been trained in Saving Lives at Birth (SLB). He is so grateful that they haven’t had any bad cases since the training 12 months ago, which taught them about danger signs to look for so that babies can be referred to the hospital in a timely manner.
When we asked why they hadn’t had any knowledge prior to the SLB training, the assistant doctor said they didn’t have sufficient equipment to practice what they had learned in school, so their skills were forgotten. Now that they have proper training, equipment and resources, the hospital attendants are able to practice constantly and pass on what they have learned to other staff.
Later, we asked the doctor if he could share more about what the situation was like before the training. He simply answered, “Babies would die while waiting for the doctor.”
When birth attendants were unsure how to handle a situation, they would ask for help from the two doctors at the clinic which ended up wasting precious time. The training taught these birth attendants about the ‘golden minute,’ where resuscitation must occur in order to save the baby. This rule clarified that they cannot wait for the doctor’s assistance in these circumstances if the baby is to survive.
As we walked through the maternity ward, we heard a newborn baby crying. It was a wonderful sound to hear a healthy newborn! The birthing rooms used to be less than ideal, with old or broken down equipment, stiff beds and dirty floors. Since the training, they now have a resuscitation table with equipment and action plans on the wall.
Our team had the opportunity to chat with a nurse named Levina at Mbekenyera Health Centre.
She said, “Since we got education in different ways of helping babies breathe through GAiN, we have many benefits. We now have a lot of education on how to help babies breathe, how to give care to mothers, we are so happy because we learned a lot and understand the benefits for us.”
When asked how she felt after receiving this GAiN training, she shared, “I feel so happy because we understand how to help that baby when it has a problem. We also need to continue learning with GAiN’s help and have more opportunities.”
Levina shared that during one of her shifts, she admitted a pregnant woman into the hospital who was close to giving birth. Upon the examination, she noticed that the heartbeat of the baby was decreasing and it was having fetal distress. She remembered her training and prepared the necessary equipment in case the baby required breathing assistance. Once the mother delivered, Levina identified what treatment was needed and swiftly cleared the baby’s airways. Within five minutes, the baby was crying! Levina was so happy that the education she received was helpful in saving a life
Levina shared that prior to her training, “it was a bad feeling [to help with a delivery] because [we] are always expecting the baby will be healthy at birth so when that doesn’t happen it’s sad because it’s a human life.”
At Mandawa Health Center, a clinical attendant and anesthetist named Tumaini said the training has helped their whole team become better at assisting mothers during delivery. Several other attendants mentioned that they feel much more comfortable using proper methods to save lives at birth and believe they will be able to help many more babies in the future. One nurse named Paul shared about a mother who experienced postpartum hemorrhaging after birth, but he was able to manage the bleeding using the action steps that GAiN taught him.
Not only has GAiN’s Saving Lives at Birth training vastly improved the function of the clinics, but the provision of access to clean water has also ensured that these centres run smoothly and effectively. The staff used to draw from the town’s water system, keeping a limited supply in tanks for the rainy season. However, during each dry season they would run out of water. When this happened, they sent people on motorbikes or in an ambulance to buy water but had to use it sparingly for surgeries and birth. All other patients had to bring their own bucket of water.
After seeing how a lack of clean water was inhibiting the medical staff’s ability to care for patients, GAiN stepped in and created a system for easy, reliable access. The drilling locations have now been connected to the medical centres, providing safe water and creating a more hygienic and stable environment for all.
“With GAiN drilling the borehole we see a bright future ahead because sometimes we would have to tell families/loved ones to go and collect water from remote places for their delivery due to the lack of water. There wasn’t enough staff here to collect water. Now with GAiN the problem [is] solved. We are sure it will be a sustainable one for a long time,” shared Eusebius.
Eusebius shared how deeply appreciative the clinics are for GAiN’s support, as it has dramatically increased the staff’s ability to protect mothers and children at birth and has given them renewed confidence in their skills. The delivery packs that GAiN provided have also been a profound blessing to pregnant mothers who are better set up to have safe and smooth births.
By equipping medical clinics with access to clean water, Saving Lives at Birth training and delivery packs, GAiN is providing higher quality health care to mothers and babies in Tanzania, Benin and Togo. The impact that GAiN’s support is having on clinics is encouraging–medical staff are growing in confidence and, as a result, more lives are being saved. We are thankful that GAiN has the opportunity to create an environment of safety, stability and hope within the health care clinics and are excited to continue sharing their stories of success and growth.