Stories of Impact
Vulnerable at Birth
In a rural area of Afghanistan, Aziza* listens closely as her class’s instructor discusses pregnancy and newborn care. Today, they are going over problems that can arise immediately after birth. The instructor explains that newborn babies are unable to regulate their temperature as well as older children, and ensuring they are warm enough can play a key role in their survival. Then, they begin teaching about breathing problems that can arise after birth. This type of problem has taken the lives of many babies in Aziza’s community. As she learns to check for signs of blockages and how to stimulate circulation, she begins to tear up. She thinks of the many women she knows whose babies have been declared dead at birth before any of these interventions were taken. She wonders how many of them would be alive today if someone at their birth had known.
A few weeks after completing the course, Aziza is attending a wedding. She sees an old friend who is there with her husband and is very far along in her pregnancy. As the evening goes on, her friend starts experiencing signs of labor. Aziza decides to go with them to the clinic just in case she can put any of her new skills to use.
After waiting a little while, she is told that her friend has given birth to a little girl, whom they name Sabra*. However, Sabra is not breathing. The doctor says he has done what he can, but he cannot get the baby to respond. Stepping forward, Aziza asks if she can help, but he does not allow it. He does not think that a village woman would know more than him.
Shortly after, the doctor pronounces the baby dead. Still determined to help, Aziza decides to try a different tactic, asking if she can be the one to bring the baby’s body back to her friend. He allows her to take the baby. Immediately, she ensures that Sabra is dry and wraps her in her shawl for warmth. She cleans out her nose and mouth and starts rubbing her back. Then, she gently flicks her feet to help stimulate circulation. Lastly, Aziza breathes into her. It works, and baby Sabra begins to breathe on her own!
About two months later, Sabra’s very grateful mother came back to our BirthAid Program Manager and laying her beautiful child in his arms told him; “This baby is your baby.”
When we received this story from our team in Afghanistan, we were incredibly moved by Aziza’s determination, persistence, and compassion. Our team in Afghanistan always emphasizes that community members who have taken our birth-life-saving course are passing on their knowledge and the impact is reaching far beyond those in the classroom. Students are going out into their communities and teaching their friends and family. So many community members have told us that their mothers, daughters, and newborns would still be alive if they had known these skills sooner. Sabra and Aziza’s story is an example of how empowering even just one person in a community has a ripple effect, impacting so many more.
Vulnerable at Birth
According to UNICEF, 2.4 million babies died in their first month of life in 2020. The majority of these deaths were preventable. Premature birth, infection, and labor and delivery complications are some of the leading causes of this incredible loss of life.
In developing countries, rural communities, and high-conflict zones, newborns die at an alarming rate when compared with the rest of the world. In these areas, healthcare and basic resources are difficult if not impossible to access. Because of this, high-risk pregnancies go under the radar, and when complications arise it is often too late. Many women give birth at home or outside without a birth attendant, midwife, or any sort of medical care.
Teaching basic birth-life-saving skills can be an incredibly effective way to help more newborns and their mothers in these areas survive. In courses taught through our BirthAid program, we teach people how to check for airway for blockages, help their infants with body temperature regulation, stimulate circulation, prevent infection, stop excessive bleeding, and the danger signs to look for during pregnancy so they can seek care ahead of time if necessary.
Currently, BirthAid is operating in Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is in the beginning stages of launching in Angola! In countries like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hospitals are often targets of bombings and other violence. This often causes doctors to flee, along with other community members, and large portions of the population become displaced. In these types of situations, basic healthcare is largely inaccessible and inadequate.
In Angola, rural communities are often hours away from city hospitals with better resources. Local clinics are largely unprepared to deal with birth-related or newborn complications, so mothers are referred to the city and oftentimes do not survive the trip. Not only will we be teaching birth-life-saving skills in these areas, but also providing trainings and basic equipment to local clinic staff so they can be better prepared for birth-related emergencies.
A Call to Action
It is difficult to grasp the idea that almost two in a half million infants die before they are a month old every year. Each number represents a life full of potential that is left behind. Matthias, a father in sub-Saharan Africa whose infant died at just three days old said to us, “If a single soul is lost, a vacuum is created. You will never know who that baby may become. To the country, to you first, to the community and the country as a whole.”
At Saving Moses, we are saving babies every day. Join us in helping every baby make it past the most vulnerable first 28 days of life with BirthAid.
*Names have been changed for identity protection