Maternal Care: No woman should die while giving life!

TORONTO, April 30 /CNW/ - As the G8 and G20 debate the Canadian government's proposal to focus on maternal care; countless organizations are already doing the job. Yet these groups face absurd hurdles in getting medical supplies to those who desperately need them.

ENAHPA, the Ethiopian North American Health Providers Association has been working to reduce the alarming rate of mother and infant mortality in Ethiopia for the last ten years through various measures, including public education and maternity kits for safe newborn delivery.

"We have more than $400,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies for a maternal child health (MCH) centre ENAHPA built in Hawassa but we're short $5,000 in shipping charges," said Sharon Ashton, ENAHPA's Executive Director, based in Toronto. "We're currently soliciting the private sector to cover the cost of shipping from Djibouti to Hawassa."

In partnership with several organizations, ENAHPA has collected approximately USD 400,000 of medical equipment and supplies to equip the MCH Center. A 40 foot container is loaded and shipping costs from New York to Djibouti have bee paid. ENAHPA will not proceed with the shipment from New York until all the financing has been arranged for the Djibouti to Hawassa leg of the voyage. This is a safety measure to avoid any delays in Djibouti where hefty storage charges can be incurred. "We have learnt a lesson about Djibouti the hard way with previous shipments."


               Births attended    Infant Mortality rate       Maternal
               by skilled health  (per 1,000 live births)     mortality rate
    Location   personnel (%)      both sexes                 (per 1,000 live)

                 1995     2005       1990     2000     2006            2005
    Ethiopia                 6        122       92       77             720
    Canada         98      100          7        5        5               7

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 99% of all neonatal deaths in the world occur in developing countries, with Sub-Sahara Africa suffering from the highest-rate of neonatal mortality. Ethiopia is one of these countries.

Improving maternal health remains one of Ethiopia's most important challenges to ending high child mortality today. While Ethiopia has made some headway towards improving maternal and child health but still, 2009 demographic and health data showed that 25,000 women died every year giving birth and an infant mortality rate of 77 per 1,000 live births. In terms of personnel, the country has only one midwife and three doctors for every 100,000 citizens. Only 6 percent of births occurred in a health facility attended by skilled health personnel, a report by the UN Population Fund stated. Those mothers that don't deliver children at home walk untold miles to ill-equipped, makeshift clinics. Limited space and beds forces mothers to return home, carrying their newborn children only hours after giving birth. Infections are the most common cause of death, followed by low birth weight due to poor nutrition, asphyxia, congenital problems and other causes.

In 2006, ENAHPA broke ground on the Al-Amoudi and Volvo Maternal Child Health Center in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Hawassa is a town located about 4 hours south of Addis Ababa. In partnership with the local Health Bureau, ENAHPA completed the construction of the MCH Center in February 2010. The Center will serve as a model program in the region and provide services for Hawassa and its surrounding population. It will also serve to train medical students from various health colleges and medical schools in the area. ENAHPA plans to inaugurate the Center in October 2010 when hopefully everything is in place.

The Hawassa Project also includes:

Skills Training Course in Emergency Obstetrics:

In partnership with the Medical School in Hawassa, ENAHPA developed and provided a skills training course in February 2010 in emergency obstetrics for midwives and other health professionals hired for the Center. ENAHPA is providing gloves and masks for these midwives.

Solar Powered Flashlights for ENAHAPA's Rural Care Program

ENAHPA, in partnership with various organizations, has delivered 50 solar powered flashlights for midwives in the rural areas surrounding Hawassa. These flashlights can provide approximately seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and are invaluable for assisting women who go into labour at night. ENAHPA is working with the manufacturer of the flashlight to offer a sales program for Ethiopia on their website and seeking corporate benefactors.

Safe Delivery Kits

ENAHPA has piloted a small-scale program on safe delivery kits. With 90% of woman giving birth at home and without the help of a trained health worker, the risk of infection is high. The clean-delivery kit is a simple approach to reducing these numbers. It helps women and newborns avoid life-threatening infections. Most kits contain a small bar of soap for washing hands, a plastic sheet to serve as the delivery surface, clean string for tying the umbilical cord, a new razor blade for cutting the cord, and pictorial instructions that illustrate the sequence of delivery events and hand-washing.

Social Financing

ENAHPA has applied for a grant of $75,000 to provide low interest loans to women in the Hawassa area who are involved in making handcrafts. As part of the small loan agreement, the woman would be required to assemble safe delivery kits for ENAHPA's rural maternal care program.

To donate to ENAHPA, please visit


For further information: For further information: Sharon Ashton, ENAHPA, Executive Director,, (905) 278-1001; Dr. Haregua Getu, Family Physician, Toronto, ENAHPA U.S., VP,, (416) 690-7269 (office), (416) 422-5515 (home); Dr. Melaku Game, Oncologist, Edmonton, ENAHPA Canada, President,, (780) 932-4221 (cell); Dr. Fikre Germa, ER Physician, Brantford, ENAHPA Canada, VP,, (519) 717-2991

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