Saving Mothers, Giving Life: Lessons from Uganda and Zambia

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By: Kate Mitchell, Manager of the MHTF Knowledge Management System, Women and Health Initiative

Over the past year, the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) partnership has worked to address the alarming levels of maternal mortality in Uganda and Zambia. The SMGL partnership, a collaboration between the U.S. Government, the Government of Norway, Merck for Mothers, Every Mother Counts, Project C.U.R.E. and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has pledged more than $280 million USD in resources to improve maternal health in several countries, starting with Uganda in Zambia.

To coincide with the one-year anniversary of SMGL, the partnership has recently published a program update that shares highlights from the initiative’s first year of work in Uganda and Zambia.

The approach of the project has been to work with district and provincial health offices in eight districts to train health workers, upgrade facilities, and encourage women to give birth in facilities. From the very beginning of the project, the partnership has emphasized the importance of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and has integrated M&E into the program activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with in-country partners to conduct assessments of health facilities and gather data on maternal mortality in order to measure the impact of SMGL. Columbia University is coordinating an external, independent evaluation of the project. In addition, USAID is conducting a study to estimate the cost of the different SMGL interventions to help inform scale-up activities and expansion of the project into other countries.

Interesting findings from CDC:

  • The number of pregnant women delivering in facilities has increased in all eight Saving Mothers districts in Uganda and Zambia
  • In Zambia, mHealth programs are making it easier to document patient treatment and referral
  • Hundreds of health workers in both countries have been trained to provide emergency obstetric and newborn care, and many more facilities are now able to offer these services
  • Community health workers, called Village Health Teams in Uganda and Safe Motherhood Action Groups in Zambia, have been trained to encourage birth preparedness as well as to collect data to track progress
  • Essential supplies and equipment, including Mama Kits and toolkits for postpartum hemorrhage and eclampsia treatment, have been distributed to promote safe facility deliveries

Access the full program update here, including key recommendations for how to enhance the project moving forward from Columbia University. 

Click here for a collection of photos of key activities from the first year of the SMGL project.