It’s difficult to choose just four highlights of 2014 for maternal health in Africa. When Jacaranda started in 2011, we had a mission: to build a new model for maternal and newborn health in East Africa and make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns. This model brings high-quality, patient-centered care at a low-cost, to the women and families living in low-resource regions in this part of Africa. This is what we believe: Women must have not only access to health care as they bring new life into this world, they have a right to quality health care that is respectful and affordable.
As we look back over 2014, there are of course a mix of success stories and on-going challenges that make working to improve maternal and newborn health in this part of the world both difficult and undoubtedly necessary and rewarding.
Here are some of Jacaranda’s and the maternal health community’s successes that we’re most excited about (and if photos are more your thing, check out Jacaranda Health’s “2014 in Photos” and share!):
- Maternal deaths have fallen by almost half throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNFPA, since 1994 the number of women who have died from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth has decreased 47%. It’s a number to celebrate. In 1994, half a million women were dying every year and that number is closer to 289,000 women today. This is still too high and there is still much work to be done. It’s one reason why Jacaranda Health is not only building new maternity hospitals in Kenya to provide high-quality, respectful care to women during pregnancy and childbirth (we launched our second hospital in September of this year to provide care to the thousands of women and newborns who come through our doors and received one of the highest quality accreditation ratings for any health facility in Kenya) but also working to replicate our model with government health facilities and disseminating our work with partners to share what we learn as we pilot new innovations.
- Midwives save lives. This year the evidence became clear: midwives are central to the effort to reduce the number of women and newborns who die every year. The Lancet’s Miwifery series identified midwives as the key to ending preventable maternal deaths. The news came as no surprise to Jacaranda Health where nurse midwives are core to Jacaranda Health’s mission. We train maternal health leaders at Jacaranda Health. Our nurse midwives oversee all of the patient-centered, high-quality health care for our pregnant, birthing and new moms (and their newborns). We are also taking a systematic approach to professional development for our nurse midwives in order to provide a pathway for their growth and development as future leaders in the health landscape.
- New mothers need family planning. Yes, it’s true. You can become pregnant soon after childbirth. Many women in Kenya, we found, were surprised to hear this. Jacaranda’s family planning program in 2014 has made us one of the most exciting labs for family planning innovation, in East Africa. This year, working with experts in behavior change, public health and medicine at Harvard’s School of Public Health, we made exciting strides. Nearly 70% of Jacaranda Health clients now receive postpartum family planning counseling as compared to only 30% of women who deliver in nearby faciliites. That’s just a taste of what we’re doing to contribute to the FP2020 call to increase access to family planning for the women and girls who don’t have access, by 2020.
- Kenya’s Support for Improving Maternal Health. 2014 was definitely a year to hear Kenya’s call to end maternal death in the country. From First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s Beyond Zero campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of maternal, newborn, and child health and her declaration that “no woman should die giving life” to the powerful meeting of the governors of the 15 counties in Kenya with the highest rate of maternal deaths who came together to pledge support for MDG 5 (Millennium Development Goal #5: to improve maternal health), the health of Kenya’s women and newborns have been squarely placed front in center.
There have been extraordinary efforts, over the last year, to continue to improve the health and lives of women and newborns in Kenya, East Africa, and throughout the continent. Jacaranda Health has made amazing progress over the least year and will continue to build upon our innovative model and bring exciting programs to life with the help of our world-class staff, our partners and funders, and all of our supporters. We look forward to 2015!