It may seem unusual for a university in the American South to be investing in the well-being of a nation halfway around the globe.
However, as a top 20 research university strategically located in Atlanta, a city oft-referred to as the “mecca of global health,” Emory University is just now wrapping up its three year Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership (MaNHEP) with its School of Nursing, the Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health, the JSI Research and Training Institute, and Addis Ababa University.
The project, initiated in 2010, is working toward bolstering healthcare services for vulnerable mothers and infants during the critical first 48 hours after delivery.
Both maternal and newborn mortality are strikingly high in Ethiopia, where 22,000 mothers and 100,000 newborns die per year. Most of the birth-related infections and neonatal diseases that eventually lead to death result from unsanitary at-home deliveries. Under the Ethiopian Health Sector Development Plan, the state has dispatched health workers to rural areas, where hospitals are sparse and home deliveries occur 90 percent of the time.
Emory saw an opportunity to help improve existing efforts to decrease maternal and newborn mortality rates by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MaNHEP seeks to develop community based solutions by creating a forum for locals and health workers to brainstorm ways of addressing community-specific obstacles to obtaining maternal and neonatal care.
Ideas will then be implemented and subsequently kept or discarded on a trial-and-error basis. MaNHEP also strives toward strengthening the relationship between district health system managers and field clinicians to enhance basic healthcare infrastructure.
It is in the hopes of the MaNHEP team that every mother and newborn will be afforded the care they need. Specifically, deliveries should be conducted in sterile settings and mothers should be administered necessary drugs, postpartum care, and counseling. Ideally, newborns should go through a standard healthcare assessment and have their umbilical cords safely removed.
Thus far, the program has touched the lives of nearly 20,000 women and their loved ones.
Although MaNHEP will be coming to a close, Emory’s presence in Ethiopia remains influential; the university has recently established an Office of Ethiopian Program Support and received a Fogarty grant through the National Institutes of Health for its Emory-Ethiopia Global Interdisciplinary Partnership.
– Melrose Huang