Strengthening Maternal Health Care in the Horn of Africa

Many positive changes have been made since last October when Direct Relief  provided a $25,000 grant to Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), an international nonprofit organization committed to improving maternal and neonatal health in disadvantaged communities throughout Africa.

This grant was provided to WAHA at the height of the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa to support their work in Dadaab, Kenya, where thousands of people were arriving daily into refugee camps from neighboring Somalia.

WAHA began working at the Dadaab hospital, the only referral hospital for the over 800,000 residents of the Garissa district (including 500,000 in the Dadaab refugee camp), in 2011.

Their focus was to strengthen the delivery of maternal and neonatal health care services, including emergency obstetric care, through capacity building and support in terms of human and material resources. By providing these quality reproductive health services, WAHA would achieve their goal of reducing the extremely high rates of maternal mortality in the region.

With support from Direct Relief, WAHA was able to:

  • Recruit eight medical personnel from Nairobi to increase the level of training for the medical staff at Dadaab Hospital, including a midwife, OB/GYN and anesthetist
  • Increase the number of beds in the maternity ward of the hospital from 23 to 75
  • Strengthen the referral services for emergency obstetric situations by creating an ambulance service to transport women from the camps and health centers to the hospital
  • Ensure better access and quality of maternal healthcare services by purchasing medical equipment such as microscopes, an ultrasound machine, a sterilization machine, sutures, and essential medications for complicated deliveries

Additionally, in April 2012, WAHA received an ocean freight container from Direct Relief carrying over 10,000 pounds of essential medications and supplies such as gloves, thermometers, IV solutions, oral rehydration solution, hospital beds, and autoclaves valued at $192,000 (wholesale) to support their work in Dadaab.

WAHA continues to work in the Dadaab hospital to upgrade the level of care for expectant mothers facing difficult deliveries. Over the past year, WAHA has cared for thousands of women and delivered hundreds of babies in the Dadaab hospital, now the primary access point of care for residents of the largest refugee camp in the world.

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