Dr. Donna Espeut from Concern Worldwide spoke yesterday at New York University on “Improving Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in Post-Conflict Settings.” Women who are pregnant obviously don’t stop being pregnant when disaster strikes. She discussed how responses to immediate disasters (both human and natural) are similar and different to the challenges faced in development and public health in more peaceful and stable areas, as well as those in transition. Concern has been working in countries such as Haiti, Niger, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Liberia to address the needs to mothers and children in fragile states.
Concern, with funding from the Gates Foundation, has developed a project called Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, & Child Health that is working “to find bold, new ideas to address gaps in delivery of maternal, newborn and child health services.” They have identified innovative ideas in Malawi, Sierra Leone and Orissa state in India with input from community, and the projects based on these ideas are currently being implemented. Like the MHTF, Concern has put a great level of focus on the evidence that will be generated from the evaluations of the projects.
Dr. Espeut emphasized that there is no guarantee that any of the projects will be successful since they are things that have never been done before or at least have not been done in the context in which they are being implemented. However, the maternal health community can learn from failure as well as success.