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, 24 hours
Price: Free

Download the exhibition poster and help us spread the word

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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 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

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

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

Stories from Afar with Valerie Browning

Inspirational Aussie nurse, Valerie Browning, is currently in Australia to share stories of her work in maternal and child health with the nomadic pastoralist Afar communities of Ethiopia.

Valerie’s organisation, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), is a partner in The Road Less Travelled, a project of Anglican Overseas Aid that is supported by AusAID.

Valerie will be speaking at the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne next Wednesday 14 August, a special event of the Nossal Seminar Series.

Inspirational Aussie nurse, Valerie Browning (centre), is in Australia to share her experiences working with the nomadic Afar communities of Ethiopia to improve maternal and child health.

Inspirational Aussie nurse, Valerie Browning (centre), is in Australia to share her experiences working with the nomadic Afar communities of Ethiopia to improve maternal and child health.

Continue reading

Report from Afar calls for focus on access and appropriateness of maternal health services

A baseline report released this month by The Road Less Travelled (TRLT) project supports the theory that improved maternal and child health outcomes cannot be achieved through health interventions alone. The project, led by Anglican Overseas Aid (AOA), has adopted a holistic, strengths-based approach to its community development activities, which includes measures to address education and literacy as well as to improve access to water, food security, and livelihoods.

This report presents the findings from a Baseline Assessment undertaken in late 2011 among nomadic pastoralist communities in the Sifra and Yallo woredas (districts) of the Afar region of Ethiopia. The research was carried out by TRLT project partners the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) and the Nossal Institute for Global Health. It builds on the project participatory design process which identified community assets, important cultural and gender issues impacting on health, and challenges in accessing basic services.

Maternal and child health baseline survey among nomadic pastoralist communities in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Image: Christof Krackhardt / APDA

A quantitative questionnaire was administered to 400 pastoralist households – 200 from Sifra and 200 from Yallo. The questionnaire was administered to a man and a woman from each of the participating households. Qualitative data was captured via a series of focus group discussions based on semi-structured question guides and through Community Resource Mapping and community forums which identified resources and services available to the communities.

In her Foreword to the report, APDA Project Coordinator Valerie Browning explains:

“The report cries out that access and appropriateness of services and resources, specifically health and water, must receive due attention in order to enable safe motherhood.”

The baseline data allows for a deeper understanding of the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding maternal and child health and other issues impacting on health in Afar communities.

“Since all issues raised in the report are well within the realms of APDA’s experience and expertise to tackle, this Baseline Report should energise the project team on to greater alliance with the community in the facilitation of the planned safe motherhood initiatives in each of these project districts, while providing a contextual pattern for the remaining project districts.”

If you’re interested in learning more, you can download the full report here.

The Road Less Travelled is a project of Anglican Overseas Aid, and is being delivered with the support of AusAID.

Keeping pastoralist children in school during drought

In the past few months, relief has come in the form of much-needed rain to many drought-stricken districts in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Following an extreme dry season in 2012, and two previous years of minimal rainfall, the need for rain was critical in communities that are supported through The Road Less Travelled (TRLT) project.

Before the rains, 24 water distribution trucks were being used in an effort to avert thirst. Many Afar communities were weakened by severe malnutrition, animals were too weak to collect and carry water for households, and communities were unable to reach markets and sell stock as the animals were too emaciated. There was a strong fear that livestock would die en masse, leaving thousands of households destitute.

Between March and May, rainfall in some areas has replenished water storages, however, much of the water is unprotected and highly exposed to contamination. This leads to an increased risk of waterborne diseases among an already vulnerable community. Health extension workers have been working with project-trained health workers to establish community-level sanitation, which is a huge challenge in itself given the Afar nomadic lifestyle.

Rain has provided temporary relief for some communities in the drought-stricken Afar region of northern Ethiopia in recent months, while other areas remain dry.
Image: AVI / Fran Noonan

Other areas remain dry, having received minimal rainfall in recent months, and communities have been forced to move far from their homelands in search of grazing lands for their livestock. With the health of the herd at the heart of the pastoralists’ livelihood, TRLT partner the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) continually monitors these conditions and supports displaced communities through animal feeding and treatment, and water distribution.

A flow-on effect of the drought is that many pastoralist school children are forced to abandon their studies. Continue reading