Training caregivers to save more mothers and babies in Zimbabwe

Forty healthcare workers have fanned out across Zimbabwe equipped with best practices in the provision of emergency obstetrical care.

"Moved by the dire statistics on maternal and infant mortality in Zimbabwe, HPIC brought together a whole network of partners to make this first training in Zimbabwe happen," said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC.

HPIC sponsored the ALARM International Program, a course in Emergency Obstetrical and Neonatal Care (EmONC) developed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. It was given Sept. 17-22 in Harare in partnership with the Zimbabwean Association of Church-related Hospitals and the Medical and Dental Practitioner's Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ). Major donors included The Salvation Army, the CHARIS Foundation, Initiative 360 and Johnson and Johnson.

Providing the ALARM course is a component of HPIC's Focus on Mother and Child Health. Kendall Nicholson, HPIC's Executive Director of Programs, was in Harare for the first training. "The group was young and composed of doctors and midwives. They appreciated the very hands-on practical format of the course," she said, adding that "for many the emphasis on a mother's rights in making decisions about her care was new. If a woman has a good experience at the hospital, she is more likely to come back the next time she is pregnant. The rights approach has a direct impact on improving maternal and neonatal mortality rates."

Learning how to deliver a baby with shoulder dystocia is a life-saving component of the ALARM course. Shoulder dystocia is one of the most anxiety-provoking emergencies encountered in maternity care. It occurs when a baby's shoulder does not enter the mother's pelvis as it should. "Shoulder dystocia is often fatal because of a lack of skills," said one of the participants.

Knowing how to manage postpartum bleeding is also critical. "Postpartum bleeding is an even greater threat because where (our hospital is) we don't have access to blood transfusions," she said. "

Another participant noted that medical schools mainly teach theory and he really appreciated the practical teaching. The teaching aids used in the ALARM International course have been left with the Zimbabwean Association of Church-related Hospitals. They now have four obstetrical mannequins with rubber babies and four infant resuscitation mannequins for future trainings.

HPIC is committed to providing two more ALARM International trainings in Zimbabwe in 2013. "One of the great things about the ALARM International training, which is so well developed by the SOGC, is that it has a train-the-trainer component. Some of the participants are now qualified trainers, which means the impact of the course will continue for years to come," Shepherd said. "Ultimately, more babies and mothers will live because of this course."