Satisfied silence permeated the newborn room at the Program for the Promotion of Primary Healthcare (PPSSP)-supported rural health center near Kamango town in Watalinga Territory, DRC. The day before, when her contractions began, Viviane had made the 5km trek to the center. That night, she became a mother for the first time. Now brushing the downy hair back on her daughter’s head, she speculated on what name she would give her. “Maybe I’ll call her Jolie,” she smiled.
For PPSSP, Viviane is a model example of their Maternal Mortality Reduction program. Inspired by the belief that women have a central role both in their family and in the nation, PPSSP, one of ECI’s local partners, launched a program in Watalinga territory to educate women about the benefits of regular check ups (both pre and post natal) and of giving birth in a hospital.
“When women give birth at home,” explained Dr. Napoleon at the Kamango health center, “they risk severe complications such as hemorrhaging, tetanus, internal bleeding and infections. There, midwives have only herbs and holistic medicine to treat these conditions. At the hospital we can detect and medically solve these problems in advance [of], during, and after giving birth.”
Little by little, change is taking hold in Watalinga. In a nearby hospital, Asmali, a mother now pregnant with her fifth child explained during a neo-natal treatment, “Before, we women didn’t know how the hospital was, and so we used midwives for birthing because it was familiar. But now that we know how it is and what to expect, so we have started to choose to go to the hospital.”
Part of that new knowledge comes from the program’s education campaigns. Using local leaders including midwives, school teachers, and customary chiefs, PPSSP spreads the message about the health benefits of giving birth in the hospital and the availability of free pre and post natal check ups.
Certainly, the young program’s accomplishments can be measured by its numbers: hospital births have increased from an average of 90 to 170 per month in Kamango since the beginning of 2015. More importantly though, its successes are also visible in the shaded space outside of the quiet of Viviane’s newborn room. There, each Friday, nearly one hundred brightly dressed women sit chatting cheerfully as they wait for their first prenatal check up. With each medical measurement, they are taking new and active steps towards a healthy and vibrant future for both themselves and their children.