Celebrate Mother’s Day with us!

Motherhood Matters exhibition poster

In Melbourne and wondering what to do with mum on Mother’s Day?

Join us at Fed Square this Sunday 11 May for a high-energy African drum and dance performance with Asanti Dance Theatre at 12pm and 2pm!

Then head inside to The Atrium to explore Motherhood Matters – a free photo exhibition that gives insight into the experience of mothers in sub-Saharan Africa. It runs until 13 May and is open day and night.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Delivering a better start in life

Sunday 5th May marked the International Day of the Midwife, an opportunity to recognise and reflect on the crucial role midwives and birth attendants play in supporting mothers through pregnancy and making childbirth safer.

With Mothers’ Day coming up this Sunday 12th May, there is no better time to pay tribute to all the amazing, dedicated people who work tirelessly to improve maternal health for all women, all over the world.

Honor a midwife or a mother: send a free e-card today.

Most maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries, and more than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to World Health Organization statistics.

Working in this region, we are all too familiar with the disparities that exist in terms of access to basic health services. The nomadic pastoralist communities who live in sparsely-populated areas of Ethiopia and Kenya are among those often excluded – they are marginalised as a result of their remote location and way of life.

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Reflections on the progress of a partnership

Last month saw the release of the inaugural Annual Report for AusAID’s Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES). The Road Less Travelled is being delivered by Anglican Overseas Aid (AOA) as part of this program.

The report is available on AusAID’s website and it highlights the progress made by all the partners in the first year of the program. Our Africa Program Advisor, Phillip Walker, is Chair of the AACES Program Steering Committee. He explains the partnership on the Engage blog, saying:

“AACES is unlike typical grant/donor relationships; it is a partnership agreement between AusAID, 10 Australian NGOs and their African partners. All parties value and support one another to get the best development outcomes in the African countries where we work.

“[It] recognises Australian NGOs’ positive record of working in Africa for some fifty years. Australian NGOs provide unique skills, have a strong base within the communities they work with and are there for the long haul.”

Naatena Lenayora, a mother from the pastoralist community of Samburu, Kenya, where The Road Less Travelled is supporting community-led initiatives to improve the health of women and children. Image: Jay Maheswaran

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