Monday, April 23, 2007

Christian Children's Fund (Success Story)

Christian Children’s Fund

ECOSOC Special Consultative Status since 1985
MDG #5 – Improving Child Survival and Maternal Health Capabilities in India

Traditionally, in some areas of India, when babies were born, only women from the lower castes would be willing to cut the umbilical cord. Considered a demeaning job, families were unwilling to do it themselves. Often babies’ umbilical cords were cut using an iron knife, causing infection in the newborns. Tradition also prescribed putting ash, mud, dung or oil on the baby’s cut cord, which furthered the high rates of infection in babies. With no skilled birth attendants, women were also suffering and dying from tetanus or obstructed labor. In 1996, in 18 villages assisted by Christian Children's Fund (CCF), 41 infants died at birth and 24 mothers died from complications related to pregnancy or delivery.

After birth, for the first few days of life many babies were fed a water-sugar solution and cow’s milk, instead of breast milk. This would lead to infant deaths from diarrhea. This was the situation in a small corner of Uttar Pradesh, India, before CCF-India began its intervention to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates.

Something needed to change.

In Utter Pradesh, CCF began a project to ensure that more local women are trained as midwives, or birthing attendants, and that women have access to safe, affordable places for maternal health care and birthing. CCF opened a Safe Delivery Center and began training local women to aid other women in their communities. These measures are helping to ensure that each child begins life in a safe, clean and healthy environment.

Training Traditional Birth Attendants

Four years ago, a woman named Savitri’ had a friend die in childbirth. When CCF-India was ready in 2004 to launch its program to train traditional birth attendants in the area, CCF identified Savitri as the best candidate in her community to receive the training. And, knowing the pain of loss and the dangers of childbirth, Savitri agreed. She also demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting proper sanitation. In her village, she champions cleanliness and encourages others to follow good hygienic practices. Last year, Savitri won a cleanliness competition in Bhauthi and received a toilet, a rare convenience, from CCF as a reward.

Training complete, Savitri has attended more than 25 births at women’s homes in her village and neighboring communities. Savitri volunteers her services to the families in her community. She is willing to cut the umbilical cord herself and hopes it will gain greater acceptance throughout the community. She likes being a midwife: “It gives me great satisfaction, serving women and babies ... kissing the newborns, bringing them into the world. I am respected by the mothers, and the community, because of the good advice I am able to give.”

Alongside another volunteer, Savitri aids women in her home village of Bauthi. Through CCF, Savitri and the second volunteer learned about the signs of risky delivery and when to send women to the Safe Delivery Center or to the hospital. They also give advice to mothers on healthy practices and attend births.

Safe Delivery Center

The Safe Delivery Center in nearby Vinoba Nagar is open 24 hours. It includes a delivery room and an examination room and is staffed by an auxiliary nurse midwife, who is a CCF-India staff member. Community members come to the center for iron tablets, tetanus injections and other services. The nurse midwife also goes out to the community to teach families about health, safe pregnancy and more. The goal of the center is to increase knowledge about safety measures and treatment and provide high-quality services for women and their families.

As in the village of Bauthi, tetanus was a problem in Vinoba Nagar. Known as jamugo, the disease was thought to be caused by a small animal or evil spirit that caught the baby at the moment of birth. Awareness programs at the Safe Delivery Center helped dispel myth and the real cause of the disease, bacteria, was acknowledged. Armed with this knowledge, the community members felt more self-empowered and believed that they could, with the help of injections, fight off the disease. They began to come for injections and tetanus rates have since declined.

Most women from Vinoba Nagar do not want to give birth at the public hospital because it is too expensive. The Safe Delivery Center, on the other hand, offers health services at a lesser cost to those who can afford to pay. For those unable to pay any costs, the Safe Delivery Center waives all fees and offers free medicines. By training women in basic medical care and creating a Safe Delivery Center, CCF is helping to ensure that each child begins life in a safe, clean and healthy environment.

For more information on this and other CCF programs, please visit

Ellie Whinnery
Global Communications Manager

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