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Amref builds infrastructure, and connections, for maternal health in Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi

Amref Health Africa, an NGO based in Kenya and active in more than 35 countries across the continent, worries that the pandemic only exacerbated structural issues that keep mothers and children from getting the care they need to stay healthy.

Through support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Amref reached more than 445,000 people in Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, including 1,700 health workers and volunteers, in its efforts to raise the standard of health services women are accessing before and after giving birth. The project focused particularly on sharing knowledge and guidance with community health workers to support them in connecting mothers and children with the best possible care, leveraging their knowledge of local culture, beliefs, and language to build trust in the value of health services.

Get a glimpse of Amref’s work.

In Kenya’s Kajiado, Kwale, and Nyeri Counties, the project offered capacity-building workshops through a training-the-trainer model that reached hundreds of community health workers who make home visits and conduct health outreach in the community. During home visits, health workers help expecting mothers learn about antenatal care, what to watch out for during pregnancy, and how to prepare to give birth, then help new mothers learn about signs of danger to watch for in newborns, nutrition, infant immunizations, and family planning.

At community outreach events, trained volunteers partnered with government health staff to disseminate accurate information about maternal health and COVID-19, to treat minor ailments, and to screen and offer referrals for more serious conditions. One aim of the project was to build bridges between local NGO health workers and government to improve health outcomes, a goal that resonates with SNF’s core focus on robust public-private partnership in its ongoing global Health Initiative.

In Zambia’s Copperbelt Province, trainings for midwives helped them level-up their skills and prepare to attend to women experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Community health workers received training, the COVID-19 vaccine of their choice, and small-group mentorship. Skill-building educational programs for health workers are a pillar of SNF’s Health Initiative as well.

In Malawi’s Zomba District, new sanitation infrastructure was constructed at the health center in Chamba that serves thousands of households from surrounding communities. The facilities built through the project encompass new latrines for the public and for health workers, including bathrooms specifically for expecting and new mothers, as well as new waste-disposal structures. Staff at the health center were trained in how to operate and maintain these new facilities, and how to best use them to reduce the risk of infections acquired in the health care setting, also a major focus of the SNF Health Initiative. Accompanying these infrastructure improvements was broader push to increase public attention to sanitation and hygiene practices, training health workers who could spread awareness in their communities.

Paralleling the structure of SNF’s global Health Initiative, where the three new hospitals SNF is creating will be turned over to the Greek public once complete, managing the facilities built at the Chamba health center will come under the purview of district authorities once the project concludes.

SNF has supported a wide variety of projects focused on improving maternal and child health, including through South Africa-based mothers2mothers, which, like Amref, leverages the trusted relationships peers can build to get mothers connected with the information and care they need.