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Maternal Health: How USAID-IHP’s Gift Bag Improved Statistics of Women Giving Birth in PHCs in Ebonyi

By Oswald Agwu

One of the key areas of intervention of the USAID-funded Integrated Health Program in Ebonyi State is the reduction in the rate of maternal, child and newborn mortality and morbidity.

To efficiently and effectively achieve this entails deliberate strategy to increase women’s patronage of health facilities with professional personnel rather than untrained, non professional traditional quacks and birth attendants.

Before now, attendance of pregnant women and nursing mothers to health facilities for antenatal and postnatal care were very poor in most parts of Ebonyi State. That accounted for the high rate of maternal and child mortality, resulting from child delivery by unprofessional attendants.

Most healthcare workers and facility users interviewed during a media tour of some primary healthcare facilities in Ebonyi State attested to that.The tour was outcome of IHP’s recent media engagement programme in the State.Findings revealed that most Primary healthcare facilities, due to acute shortage of qualified human resources for health engages the services of volunteer health workers, mainly Junior Community Health Extension Workers and auxillary nurses who lack the expertise to manage maternal and child health issues.In its mandate of strengthening health systems in the State, USAID-IHP through regular capacity building has improved the skills of these health personnel to better meet the challenges of maternal and child healthcare.

Through its Open Maternity Days event, IHP has tremendously improved attendance to health facilities by expectant and nursing mothers through direct interaction and care, among other innovations. This has also enhanced attendance to Anti natal care, ANC.However, in all the health facilities visited, including Amuzu, Onueke, Achara PHCs in Ezza South as well as Aboffia and Okaria in Ebonyi Local government area among others, there was a common significant testimony: how a simple gift bag introduced by USAID-IHP geometrically increased the number of women who deliver their Babies in healthcare facilities.All the healthcare workers interviewed confirmed that since they started giving the bags containing some baby gifts such Mackintosh, diapers, soaps and others, it has had some magnetic effect in drawing pregnant women to deliver in health facilities than before.One of the health workers, Cordelia Nwori of Aboffia Primary health centre, a suburb of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, summed up the narration: “We have received a lot of support from USAID-IHP.

Apart from capacity building, they have supported us with delivery Kits.

“And there is this gift bag they gave us for women who deliver in our facility.

“The bag has tremendously increased the number of deliveries in our facility because any woman who receives the gift bag will always inform others.

Before now, we used to record only about 7 deliveries in a month but because of the effect of the bag and other interventions, we now record between 18 and 20 deliveries in a month.

As a matter of fact, we recorded 20 deliveries of 22 live births last month.”

“Once the women get information that a gift bag is being given to those who deliver here, they will rush to come and register.

“This has helped to save the life of many women and their Babies.”

The bag has achieved a reduction in the number of women who patronize quacks.

“It is expected that the initiative if continued would ultimately bring more women to heath facilities, thereby reducing maternal and child mortality to the barest minimum in the State.

Who could imagine that a simple gift bag could do such a magic?

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