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The IPASC programme for Safe Motherhood

The Safe Motherhood Programme at IPASC (Institut Panafricain de Santé Communautaire) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently extended its work in the local communities

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From: Sustainable healthcare – Footsteps 37

Working together to establish health priorities and improve local healthcare provision

by Kaswera Vulere.

The Safe Motherhood Programme at IPASC (Institut Panafricain de Santé Communautaire), Nyankunde in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently extended its work in the local communities. Mothers join small groups where they can discuss problems and find their own solutions, according to local culture and the available local resources. We also hope to start discussions and workshops for young people, couples and women who have reached the menopause.

The mothers’ group at Komanda

This group provides an interesting example of the benefits of our work. Following each training seminar at IPASC, midwives produce an action plan for improvements in their work. A midwife in Komanda was concerned about the risks run by mothers giving birth at home without medical back-up. She discussed this with the mothers in the Komanda safe motherhood programme and they decided to start a fund, with each mother contributing a small monthly payment. 25 mothers joined immediately. After two months they chose leaders, and later formed a committee composed of a member of the health centre staff, some advisers and some representatives of the mothers.

This committee has taken part in several training sessions on safe motherhood. They considered the following concerns…

  • Most mothers do not attend an antenatal clinic.
  • Many mothers give birth at home without any trained help.
  • Mothers who have no money may need urgent medical help.
  • Many children under five suffer from anaemia and malnutrition.

All present insurance systems in the area are simply concerned with burying the dead and make no effort to save lives.

The committee undertook the task of making mothers in their area aware of these problems. They are working to meet the needs of mothers who have complications in childbirth and to help children under five whose families can no longer provide for them.

‘Safe Motherhood’ will help a mother in need even if she is not a member. Later, when she is better, she is encouraged to join. The association will pay for the transport of a member from any health centre in the town to the recommended hospital and then for their medical care. They help mothers with complications in childbirth or pregnancy and also with cases of anaemia, malnutrition and other serious illnesses in children. At present there are 270 members in 13 different groups, each one paying a monthly contribution. Twice a week, leading members visit local communities.


Following a Bible study, community activity and health education is given every Monday at ante-natal classes and at all members’ meetings. A sketch entitled When Home Delivery is a Mistake has been prepared, taped and broadcast for local radio. It compares a woman with a narrow pelvis, who did not attend an ante-natal clinic and dies at home with her baby, with a second woman who has a bleeding placenta and who is transferred to hospital, where both she and her baby survive. Two songs about safe motherhood are sung during the drama.


So far, eight mothers have needed hospital treatment. One mother was in a state of shock following a ruptured extra-uterine pregnancy, but the group provided and paid for the mother’s transport, with a further US $3 for hospital admission. Another woman had been married for more than ten years without conceiving. When she became pregnant, the baby was particularly precious to the family so at 38 weeks she was transferred to hospital to await the birth and avoid any risks. After a week’s wait, she needed a Caesarean but they were able to save the baby for which she had waited so long. The mother came back to the committee saying, ‘Thanks to “Safe Motherhood”, my precious baby has been saved.’

In addition to the women needing hospital transfers, 60 serious cases were looked after with a subsidy from the ‘Safe Motherhood’ groups.

Financial situation

During this year over US $400 has been entered in the books. So far, US $200 has already been used to help members, US $3 has been used for administrative costs, US $80 for buying a cow and just over US $100 remains.

The cow was bought to raise income through the sale of calves and milk. A soya field has been planted and a manioc field is being prepared – again to raise funds. Future plans include raising goats, planting community fields in each village and buying and installing a mill to lessen the burden for the mothers and to increase the cash in the fund.

Kaswera Vulere established The Safe Motherhood and Family Health Programme at IPASC, Nyankunde, DR of Congo.

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