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COHI 2017

That's a Wrap

Keeping mamas & babies safe in the world's hardest places.

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Why do we do what we do?

We couldn't have answered this question better than the COHI supporters do in this video.

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Here's how COHI ensures quality care to mamas and babies in crisis situations around the world.

Disaster Relief

COHI sends volunteer field teams to assist women in crisis zones.

Supplies

COHI provides supplies specific to women and children in crisis.

Professional Training

COHI provides professional training to ensure sustainability to our beneficiaries.

Social Enterprise

COHI provides a livelihood for vulnerable women in our partner communities.

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Travel to crisis zones as part of our disaster relief team or on an advocacy and training delegation. Or simply volunteer for a few days.   +

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Our partners at Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) 


Read more: Stories from the Field: Sierra Leone

Our partners at Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) recount their latest training and impact in rural Sierra Leone, celebrating the incredible progress made for rural maternal healthcare and the 

 

It had been 10 years since we first arrived in Sierra Leone to do a needs assessment for training birth attendants, and now we were returning to the village of Pellie to celebrate our anniversary with a Jamboree. 150 of the women we had trained over the intervening years were coming together to celebrate their work and their successes and to continue their education.

The logistics were a nightmare. The women were coming from four different areas of the country to one of the most remote villages over one of the worst roads we’ve ever been on. The truck carrying the group coming the farthest broke down on the way. Another group got lost  while of cell phone range. 

Finally, all the women arrived at the final rendezvous point before embarking on the last leg of the journey to Pellie. The truck we had contracted to carry them could not , of course, carry 150 people at one time, so we sent people in shifts. The first group left for Pellie two nights before the Jamboree only to become stranded when the truck got stuck in the mud and standing water at the final bridge. They walked that night to the nearest village, whose people graciously put them up. After that, the remaining women had to be ferried from the bridge to Pellie by smaller vehicles, motorbikes, or on foot. Whew!

All the problems delayed the start of the Jamboree, but finally on Monday afternoon, Dec. 12, the Women of MOMS lined up with their banners, wearing their special outfits for the occasion, and we marched down the main road of the town to the barrie, the public gathering place.  There the Paramount Chief, a representative of the Ministry of Health, all manner of local officials and hundreds of townspeople awaited.

That first afternoon, after much speechifying, ceremonial dancing and a moment of silence for all those who had died, particularly in the Ebola epidemic, the Women of MOMS from each location delivered the skits they had prepared. Skits are one of the primary tools these women use to teach the people of their communities, and they ones they presented at the Jamboree were fantastic!

One group at a time, they demonstrated their knowledge of signs and symptoms of pregnancy, nutrition, breastfeeding, family planning, caring for women in labor and their role as community health workers. Although we visit every cohort we have trained at least yearly for continuing education, the Ebola epidemic had disrupted their lives and relationships with the health clinics, especially in two of the hardest hit locations. So we were impressed with the knowledge they displayed.

And we weren’t the only ones. Mr. Jaiya, from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, was bowled over! Beginning right then, at the Jamboree, and repeatedly over the next two days in several conversations, he told us how impressed he was with their knowledge, with the role they played in their various communities and at the clinics, and with their positive relationships with clinic staff.

“I remember when you first came here,” he whispered to me during the Jamboree. “It wasn’t easy. And now look what you’ve accomplished.”

No, it wasn’t easy when we started. When we began, Sierra Leone had the worst infant and maternal mortality in the world. (Although it made some progress, it is now back in that position after the destruction of Ebola.) The direction we proposed, after that initial needs assessment, was exactly the opposite of the what the government wanted to do to the women called “traditional birth attendants.” We proposed training them to become not just birth attendants, but a bridge between the community and the clinics, teachers and advocates. We said they were respected and dedicated — a resource to be developed.

The government wanted to outlaw the “traditional birth attendants,” and over the next several years debated their role, eventually in 2010, outlawing home births. During that time, we continued to try to adapt to the changing government thinking while also trying to urge them toward training and leveraging these women.

And now, after 10 years, Mr. Jaiya said the Women of MOMS represented the model for the whole country! He also said he could always tell when we had trained in a village because the statistics from the clinic started to change for the better. Wow.  He told us he knew when a woman we trained moved to a new area and began practicing, as mortality improved.  

The next day we met again without all the “dignitaries,” just us women. We got an update from each group about how things were going in their villages and clinics, about problems and successes. And that’s when the second “wow” moment came.

One of the women told us that a few years ago, after a continuing education session about breast self exams and cancer, she visited her adult daughter and shared this information. When she examined her daughter’s breasts, she found a lump. A prompt visit to the doctor revealed that it was, indeed, cancerous. But fortunately the lump was small and had not spread. And three years later, after treatment, she is cancer free.

There’s nothing more humbling that to be part of success stories like that.

 

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