September 6, 2011

MaterCare Day 4 Part 2 MCI in the Field

I started the previous post about the last day of the MaterCare conference by discussing NaPro Technology as one of the solutions to reestablishing true obstetrics care.  I would like to finish my post about that day by next discussing more specifically what MaterCare International has been doing.
MaterCare International was born out of a desire to help address the unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality around the world.  As it was discussed previously, many of the approaches by governments and other organizations were not offering a true solution, but rather an ideology that continued to harm women.   As MCI moved forward in gathering support, an opportunity arose in Isiolo, Kenya when MCI was invited by the Archbishop to come and help him address the needs of mothers in his diocese.
From the MCI website:
The project is to provide comprehensive obstetrical care to rural areas in one of the poorest regions of Kenya badly affected by drought for over three years. Development began in 2007 and has been slow as the legal ownership of the land took time to complete, as did the selection of an architect, quantity surveyor and contractor….Phase 1 is to get the maternity hospital in the town of Isiolo operational and to develop the first rural maternity clinic in Merti. The project is designed to bring obstetrical care closer to where the mothers live.
Here is a description of the Maternity hospital:
The main building will house; 20 maternity beds expandable to 40 beds; two pre and post natal maternity wards, each with 8 beds; four rooms each with 2 beds each for mothers needing intensive care; four delivery rooms; and two operating rooms, one for clean cases e.g. caesarean section and the other for infected cases; an outpatients area; laboratory; pharmacy and administration; a waste water treatment plant and incinerator.
The overall goal of MaterCare in Isiolo is to empower the local community.  MCI came when they were invited to assist the local people in addressing a need.  In their vision for Isiolo, they are training local traditional birth attendants to better assist mothers during labor, and to recognize when complications are arising so that help may be obtained early.  MCI shows a wonderful respect for the local cultures and customs, and recognizes that the best way to serve is within the paradigm of the local community.
During the talks about what MCI is doing, Dr. Rob Walley emphasized that the organization is not just for Africa but for the world.  The goal is to address the true needs of mothers, not through abortion and contraception, but through love, education, and access to quality obstetric care.
Another area that MCI is working diligently in is providing needed to care for women affected by obstetric fistulae.  This is where a connection between the vagina and rectum or the vagina and bladder develops after extremely prolonged labor.  In many cases the baby will die during childbirth, and the mother’s health and wellbeing will be severely affected.  If the mother survives, then without treatment she will be affected by either urinary or fecal incontinence for the rest of her life.  When this occurs, the woman is ostracized by the village and her family due to the fact she cannot keep clean and may have a difficult time receiving food and the basic care she needs.   In Africa, 2 million women are affected by obstetric fistulae.  This is something that many in the West have forgotten all about because for the past 100 years it has essentially been eradicated through access to obstetric care.  But not in the developing world.  These women suffer greatly, and suffering from a condition that could be easily fixed with proper access to care.  It only costs $350-$400 to completely fix fistulae in a majority of these women.  We have been presented with a great need that if addressed, could help so many women.  This is one of the projects of MaterCare International.
I encourage you to explore their website and read their “Maternal Marshal Plan” to learn more about their vision and goals.  And please consider supporting MaterCare in their work.  In the future, I hope that there will be even more opportunities, particular for medical students, to help in concrete ways.
There is much work to be done.  At the end of the conference, we had a great discussion of what needs to be done in the future for MaterCare and organizations like it to be successful.  Some of the ideas developed included the need for more funding, creating greater political will and strength, and reaching out to students (who are the future of these organizations). 
Thank you all for your prayers of support during this trip.  It was a great blessing, and please continue to watch for more posts in the future as we explore some of the topics discussed at this conference.

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