Saving Mothers Giving Life Reports Major Progress in Reducing Maternal Mortality in First Year of Work in Uganda and Zambia

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By: Sarah Blake, MHTF consultant

In an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the partners behind the Saving Mothers Giving Life (SMGL) initiative presented the results of the first year of the initiative in eight pilot districts in Uganda and Zambia. The sharp decline in maternal mortality in both countries was the most striking finding: maternal deaths decreased by 30% in Uganda and 35% in Zambia, suggesting that SMGL’s goal of achieving a 50% reduction in maternal deaths is within reach. Further, highlights from the findings reported today included dramatic increases in institutional delivery and availability of critical emergency obstetric services expanded dramatically as SMGL worked to mobilize communities, address financial and transportation barriers to care, and support training and recruitment of health providers. What is more, results also included increased satisfaction and quality of care, and expanded coverage of essential services such as measures for the prevention of maternal to child transmission of HIV and AIDS (PMTCT). The results presented at the event are further detailed in an infographic and annual report. Throughout, speakers not only highlighted the early results of SMGL, but remarked on the importance of collaboration among diverse partners, who include a range of US public sector agencies, NGO and private partners, as well as strong political will in both key ministries and parliaments in both countries. Fundamental to the initiative’s efforts has been a commitment to record-keeping. As Dr. Shah pointed out, the initiative’s emphasis on strengthening data collection has been critical, as parliamentarians in Uganda have introduced legislation to increase health worker pay, and, in turn, ensure that skilled health providers are available when needed.  In addition, throughout the event, speakers underscored the ways in which SMGL approaches strengthening both supply and demand for five specific areas: skilled attendance at birth, safe health facilities, essential supplies, transportation and referral and data,  all of which will continue to be central in the initiative’s next phase. Ruth Aceng, the Director General of Uganda’s Health Ministry and Caroline Phiri Chibawe, Maternal and Child Health Director of  Zambia’s Ministry of Community Development both discussed the ways in which the two countries will draw on lessons from the SMGL’s first year as the initiative goes to scale in areas where access, use and quality of services are low.  Finally, speakers also discussed plans for continuing to strengthen integrated approaches to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services as SMGL is expanded to at least three additional countries in the coming years. For more on today’s event, visit the #CSISLive Twitter feed. For more on the initiative’s approach, effects and partners, visit Saving Mothers Giving Life.