Photo exhibition: Motherhood Matters

Image: Kate Holt / Anglican Overseas Aid

Image: Kate Holt / Anglican Overseas Aid

Take a journey along the road to safe motherhood in sub-Saharan Africa with ‘Motherhood Matters’, a stunning exhibition of photographs on display at Federation Square in Melbourne in the lead-up to Mother’s Day in May.

Where: The Atrium at Fed Square
When: 5 – 13 May
Price: Free

Gain an insight into the experience of mothers in rural African communities, learn about some of the challenges they face and find out about the vital work being done to improve maternal health in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Image: Ilana Rose / World Vision Australia

Image: Ilana Rose / World Vision Australia

This exhibition is being delivered by Anglican Overseas Aid and World Vision Australia, with support from the Australian Government.

For more info, subscribe for updates from The Road Less Travelled or follow us on Twitter.

Australia-Africa partnership delivers life-saving results

Anglican Overseas Aid is honored to work in partnership with the Australian Government and nine other Australian non-government organisations to deliver a program in Africa that is saving lives and helping communities take control of their futures.

The latest annual report has been released for the Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES), now in its second year. Through this scheme, Anglican Overseas Aid delivers The Road Less Travelled project with partners the Afar Pastoralist Development Association in Ethiopia, the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Nossal Institute for Global Health and Australian Volunteers International.

The AACES Annual Report 2012-2013 is now available on the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website. It highlights the impressive achievements of the 10 Australian NGOs and their African partners in the program’s second year.

To read the summary or download the report, visit: http://aid.dfat.gov.au/Publications/Pages/aaces-annual-report.aspx

Or read the news feature on the DFAT website here.

AACES Annual Report 2012-2013

The Chair of the Program Steering Committee, Elly Barrett, said the report shows “how much has been achieved and learned in the second year of the program, and how the strengths of the communities and countries we are working with … have been drawn upon to improve our program work.”

This notion of drawing on community strengths is an essential element of The Road Less Travelled project, which uses a participatory strength-based approach to work with nomadic pastoralist communities to improve maternal and child health.

Phillip Walker, Anglican Overseas Aid’s Africa Program Advisor, said this approach encourages all members of a community to play an active role in realising their own development initiatives.

“If a community is to improve their existence and maintain that position, then the change must be driven from within. It must belong to them and reflect their desire for change,” he said. “Our approach might take longer to achieve results, but when it does happen, it sticks.”

In the year 2012-2013, AACES partners working throughout sub-Saharan Africa helped more people access vital health services, promoted community involvement in maternal and child health, strengthened government health systems, fostered positive social and behavioural change, and empowered women and people with disability to identify and demand their rights.

AACES partners in 2012-2013 helped to ensure more than 10,000 babies were delivered through clean and safe practices, and more than 23,500 children received life-saving vaccines.
Image: Maria Ölund

Overall, AACES reached more than 80,000 people through maternal and child health programs in 2012-2013, including:

  • More than 10,000 babies delivered through clean and safe practices.
  • More than 23,500 children received life-saving vaccines.
  • 47,300 people living in remote areas had access to vital health services including family planning.
  • Health systems were strengthened through the training of 897 community health workers, to provide basic care, deliver maternal and child health, and nutrition messages in marginalised communities.

Among the efforts highlighted in the AACES Annual Report were those of AOA’s project partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association. Working with government health personnel, they jointly delivered a vaccination program to more than 500 children of nomadic pastoralists in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia. They also instigated a supplementary food program to 1680 school children and trucked water to drought-stricken communities.

Anglican Overseas Aid is proud of the progress being made by The Road Less Travelled partners in Ethiopia and Kenya, and by the AACES program overall.

“The AACES program is a living partnership between the 10 NGOs and the Australian Government,” Walker said. “And it is having a real impact in African communities – actually saving people’s lives and giving them a future.”

Through their commitment to sharing best practices and leveraging their resources, organisations, governments and community groups are better equipped to work together in producing the best possible outcomes for mothers, children, and communities.

Learn more about the AACES partnership and progress made in 2012-2013

AACES is a five-year program (2011-2016) being delivered in 11 African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The $90 million program funded by the Australian Government contributes to reducing poverty in Africa through community-based interventions in the key areas of maternal and child health, food security, and water and sanitation, with a particular focus on women, children and people living with disability.

Top tweeting for maternal health

This week, The Road Less Travelled project (@ARLTAfrica) was honoured to be featured on The Huffington Post blog, in a list of 25 Leading Tweeters on Maternal Health.

The author, Jennifer James, is the Founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of over 2,000 mothers who care about the world’s most pressing issues.

The organisations and individuals that made Jennifer’s top 25 are united by their efforts in “sharing information that is focused on keeping more mothers alive during and after childbirth.”

Continue reading

Mobilising communities in the fight for safe motherhood

Momina sits on the bed in the hut where she will give birth to her third child. The bed is a traditional Afar “oloiyta” made of thatched sticks and slightly raised. She is ready to deliver any day now.

“The baby has been moving around a lot,” Momina says. She is nine months pregnant, and is visited twice a week by a Women’s Extension Worker (WEW) from the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) – the Ethiopian partner of Anglican Overseas Aid in The Road Less Travelled project.

Momina is nine months pregnant and waiting to give birth at home, with the support of a trained traditional birth attendant. Image: Kate Holt / Anglican Overseas Aid

Expectant mother, Momina, is waiting to give birth at home in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia.
Image: Kate Holt / Anglican Overseas Aid

The WEW has monitored Momina throughout her pregnancy, and provided antenatal care. However, this has not always been the case for women giving birth in the Afar region of Ethiopia. In one district surveyed by the project, 66 percent of women reported having received no antenatal care during their most recent pregnancy. (Read more in our Baseline Report).

As a country, Ethiopia has one of the highest ratios of maternal mortality in the world, in 2011 recording 676 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.1 For women in the Afar, the risks of injury or death during childbirth are even greater.

Due the remoteness of the Afar pastoralist communities and their nomadic lifestyle, communication, transport and access to health services has in the past been extremely limited or non-existent. There are also significant cultural or attitudinal factors that affect the care mothers receive during pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery.

APDA is improving the chance at life for Afar mothers and their children, by mobilising members of the community in the fight for safe motherhood. With a 20-year history working within the pastoralist setting, the organisation is uniquely positioned to facilitate relief and development activities that are relevant to the community, and implemented by the community.

Continue reading

The work of the community

This post was written by Chris McKeon, Writer and Production Assistant at Arete Stories.

About three hours north of Nairobi around a high, rocky hill is a collection of small huts. They are part of the Maasai community of Naibor, in Kenya’s Laikipia region.

As well as the mud huts, there is also a small primary school built of metal sheeting and a track, carved through the red dust, linking it to the towns of Nanyuki and Doldol. The odd goat grazes along the side of this track and women can be seen trudging through the red dust daily with water containers on their backs. The lack of water in the community becomes increasingly apparent the closer one gets.

The dusty track that links the Maasai community of Naibor to the towns of Nanyuki and Doldol.  Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

The dusty track that links the Maasai community of Naibor to the towns of Nanyuki and Doldol.
Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

“We were in difficulties with water,” explains James Supa as he sits on a rock near the roadside. “In the dry season, mothers have to walk to the river or Doldol or Nanyuki for water. It can take a whole day to fill their buckets with water.” (Read our earlier blog post about the effects of the water burden on women in Naibor.)

The little water they do find is often contaminated by animals or can only be reached by digging in the mud where the river used to flow, five kilometres from Naibor. Supa acts as a link person between The Road Less Travelled project (TRLT) and the Maasai, to ensure any development activities are locally-appropriate and meet the needs of the community. TRLT is a project of Anglican Overseas Aid, which works in partnership with local organisation the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church in Kenya (MUACK).

In Naibor, the community identified the chronic water shortage as a key development challenge.  Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

In Naibor, the community identified the chronic water shortage as a key development challenge.
Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

Women of Naibor at a community meeting. The new rock catchment will mean less time walking long distances to collect water for their households.  Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

Women of Naibor at a community meeting. The water shortage is a burden that is felt most heavily by women, whose task it is to walk long distances on a daily basis to collect their household’s water.
Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

The past few years have seen increasingly long dry spells in the Laikipia region, and the water shortages have worsened. When TRLT started and a community development committee was formed, the people of Naibor identified the chronic water shortage as a key challenge, and appealed for support from the project to alleviate the problem.

After community discussions, the suggestion was made to use the local environment and build a rock water catchment to store water during the rainy season. TRLT supported the initiative, which made use of local labour and resources to build two low walls along the hill’s bare rock face, as well as a storage tank. The walls channel the rainwater down the rock face and into the tank for use during the long dry season, when water is scarce.

Continue reading

The Afar tradition of disability inclusiveness

Teacher Humaid Said shared his experiences of disability inclusiveness in the Afar community of Ethiopia with Tanya Caulfield of the Nossal Institute for Global Health – Anglican Overseas Aid’s partner in The Road Less Travelled project.

When he was 12, Humaid Said contracted polio and lost the use of his leg.

In many developing countries, Humaid would have been consigned to a life on the margins of his community. People with disabilities are among the poorest and most vulnerable and are often at greater risk of social exclusion.1 This, in turn, reduces their access to education and healthcare, along with opportunities to participate in decision-making and provide for themselves and their families.

But for Humaid, growing up in the rural Afar region of Ethiopia was an entirely different experience that challenges the notion that development work must always teach people about how to include people with disabilities.

The nomadic pastoralists of the Afar have a deeply embedded traditional social support network, and the concept of excluding an individual from family and community life based on their disability is perceived to be counter to Afar cultural laws.

Teacher Humaid says that in Afar culture, people with disabilities are active participants in the community.  Image: Tanya Caulfield / Nossal

Teacher Humaid says that in Afar culture, the community perception is that no one should be treated differently.
Image: Loretta Pilla

“When I was younger, I would see others participating in activities when I couldn’t, so I wished to be like them,” he explained. “But the community perception is that no one should be treated differently – there is a law in Afar tradition not to treat people differently in the family and the clan.”

Despite wishing at times that he had full use of both legs, Humaid said that in Afar culture people with disabilities are active participants in the community and are involved in different ways in socioeconomic activities.

Continue reading

Community Health Workers drive sanitation changes amongst the Maasai

This post was written by Chris McKeon, Writer and Production Assistant at Arete Stories.

The Maasai of Laikipia region in northern Kenya face a number of health issues. With a history of nomadism they had never felt the need for toilets as the bush always sufficed. However, with the decline in size of the territory along with the erection of more permanent structures, safe disposal of fecal matter has arisen as a major concern.

Preventable diseases such as diarrhoea are widespread, and pose a significant threat to the health of the Maasai – especially that of infants and children under the age of five.

The problem stems from a lack of basic hygiene. “The Maasai aren’t used to using pit latrines,” says Daniel Kipishe, a Community Health Worker in the Morupusi area. “They just go in the bush.”

A traditional Maasai home in Morupusi Group Ranch of Laikipia County, Kenya. Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

A traditional Maasai home in Morupusi Group Ranch of Laikipia County, Kenya.
Image: Matthew Willman / AOA

Each year, around the world, more than 1.5 million people die from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases, according to WHO. Millions more suffer from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and intestinal worms.

For the Maasai, the lack of adequate sanitation may be hindering progress in other areas of community development, including maternal and child health.

Simple health advice is the solution to stopping the spread of disease. Anglican Overseas Aid (AOA), along with the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church of Kenya, has trained 25 Community Health Workers in Morupusi to help overcome this problem. Their role is to provide basic health advice in the villages and report on the area’s health needs to the Kenyan Government. Although the health workers were selected from the population, initially the Maasai were wary of engaging with them.

Continue reading

Identifying a model for improved maternal and newborn care in pastoralist communities

This post was written by Natalie Stephens and Dr Michelle Kermode of the Nossal Institute for Global Health – Anglican Overseas Aid’s partner in The Road Less Travelled project.

A woman in Kenya is hundreds of times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than a woman in Australia. The level of risk for women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth is the largest health gap between rich and poor countries.

Fifteen percent of all pregnancies and births have life-threatening complications and, while most cannot be predicted, the majority of complications can be managed safely by skilled birth attendants such as doctors and nurses.

Pastoralist mothers wait for check-ups outside a health clinic in Samburu County, Kenya. Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

Pastoralist mothers wait for check-ups outside a health clinic in Samburu County, Kenya.
Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

There is strong evidence to show that access to skilled care during pregnancy, birth and the first month after delivery, is key to saving the lives of mothers and their babies. Yet, in 2013 more than half of all women giving birth in developing countries do so alone or attended by people such as traditional birth attendants or family carers, inadequately trained or resourced to respond in the event of birth complications. As a result, maternal mortality rates are unacceptably high and women are dying unnecessarily as a result of preventable causes.

Continue reading

On the road to safer birthing practices

This post was written by Sarah Manyeki, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer for Mothers’ Union Kenya – Anglican Overseas Aid’s partner in The Road Less Travelled project.

In the remote Maasai community of Morupusi, in Kenya’s Laikipia County, the training and deployment of Community Health Workers (CHWs) is beginning to see positive results. Elizabeth Kaparo was trained as a CHW in 2012, an initiative of The Road Less Travelled (TRLT), a project that is committed to improving access to basic health care for nomadic pastoralist communities.

CHWs, people trained in basic health skills and who live within the nomadic pastoralist communities, are part of the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s (MoH) strategy to find local solutions to the barriers to accessing health services. TRLT partner the Mothers’ Union works with the MoH to facilitate the training of CHWs. This collaboration is an important step to bridge the gap between the traditional practices of these communities, and formal health facilities.

The efforts of TRLT-trained Community Health Workers are starting to have a positive effect on the health of mothers and children in the Maasai community of Morupusi.  Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

Mothers and children in the Maasai community of Morupusi are starting to benefit from the training of Community Health Workers, who provide a link between traditional practices and formal health services.
Image: Per Arnsäter / Anglican Overseas Aid

The project envisages the CHWs as a vital asset to their community, offering a cost-effective, accessible, and community-owned health resource.

Continue reading

From Australia to Afar, all mums matter

This month, The Road Less Travelled was honored to have our partner, Valerie Browning, in Australia to share firsthand the realities, challenges and innovative approaches the project has adopted to improve maternal health in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia.

Read our article on the Mamamia blog or listen to the radio interview with Valerie on 3ZZZ.

While she was in Australia, Valerie connected with health professionals, educators, students, researchers, and members of the general public, to talk about what life is like for the nomadic pastoralists she works with.

Many of the audience left feeling inspired by Valerie’s determination to do whatever she could to help the Afar in developing locally-appropriate solutions to the immense development challenges they face.

Continue reading