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Maternal Health Blog

Congressman McDermott On CARE Learning Tour To DRC

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Ellen Carmichael is traveling in Rwanda and the DRC on a CARE Learning Tour, a comprehensive, multi-day tour for policymakers and those who can influence policy to gain firsthand knowledge of the core issues poor communities face. She is a field coordinator with CARE USA”s Policy and Advocacy Unit. To learn more about the Learning Tours Program, please visit: www.care.org/learningtour.

Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-7), pictured above, on CARE”s Learning Tour to the Democratic Republic of Congo visited HEAL Africa”s Safe Motherhood hospital and support group. Through providing prenatal care and micro-insurance programs, women receive health support while receiving small grants to manage childbirth costs. Funded by UNICEF, HEAL Africa”s Women”s Solidarity Groups include over six thousand members across Eastern Congo and provide training in family planning and small business management. Nearly eight hundred Solidarity Group Leaders have been trained on managing income-generating activities to help provide additional business opportunities for both the women within the group and the greater community. Congressman McDermott and the Learning Tour met with Meme Mere (We”re all Mothers) – a solidarity group comprised of 85 members – and spoke with women who received training, and are now teaching other women about reproductive health and loan management.

Kanyare Saba Saba, 35, has given birth to ten children, eight of whom have survived. During the birth of her tenth child, Kanyare Saba Saba started to hemorrhage. She had lost so much blood her family was afraid that she would die. In her rural village in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kanyare did not have access to an ambluance to take her to the nearest hospital or an OBGYN to provide her with emergency obstetric care. Fortunately, Kanyare had access to another resource: a women”s solidarity group called Meme Mere, or We”re all Mothers, headed by its president Victorine Kikiri.

Meme Mere is a group of 85 members who work together to pool money into a social fund to cover expensives related to maternal health, including prenatal, delivery and neonatal care. They earn money for their social fund through farming, sewing and trading activities. The group was formed with the continued support of HEAL Africa. Mme. Kikiri, the group”s president, received training on reprodcutive health, and has in turn trained the other members of the group in maternal and newborn health, including promoting delivery at health centers.

When Kanyare”s complications began to develop, her husband went to Mme. Kirkiri for help. With funds from Meme Mere”s group savings, Mme. Kirkiri was able to hire a taxi to take Kanyare to the nearest hospital. At the hospital the doctor had to operate to save Kanyare”s life. The doctor concluded that any future pregancies would be life threatening and recommended a tubal ligation. In the DRC a husband”s or father”s consent is required before a doctor can preform a tubal ligation. After seeing his wife”s condition Kanyare”s husband signed the consent form.

When we met Kanyare, I asked her why she had so many children and if she had ever heard of family planning. She repiled that she didn”t know anything about birth spacing or contraception: “If I knew about family planning, then I surely would have used it,’ she said. Members of Meme Mere currently don”t have access to family planning due to a lack of resources. Meme Mere has supported 20 women in their group who have experienced obstetric emergencies. The group is continuing to engage more income generating activities to help reduce poverty and support maternal and newborn health in their community. The group works together to cultivate fields of cabbage, carrots, cassava and sweet potatoes, and hopes to someday have the funds to build an office, support more income generating activites for women, and help improve food and living conditions in the community. In the meantime, Mme. Kirkiri aims to “put teaching into practice to help make women in her village healthier.’

Congressman McDermott and the delegation had the unique opportunity to speak directly with the women involved in this program, learning more about their daily struggles and the hope they have found through solidarity groups like Meme Mere. As Representative McDermott said: "I think every American should take this kind of trip to see up close and personal the challenges that the rest of the world faces.’

Posted by kporter@care.org on Aug 29, 2011 3:58 PM US/Eastern

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