Grappling with Sustainability: Reflections on Mama Kits

Although clean birth practices are widely recognized as a crucial component of a safe birth, oftentimes health systems simply lack the materials for basic hygienic care.  An estimated 1 million newborns and mothers will die from infections after birth worldwide, and the increase in skilled birth attendance at birth has been much slower than desired.

One minor aspect of our project this year involves the local distribution of “Mama Kits.” So, what is a Mama Kit, anyway?

Mama Kits — otherwise known as clean birth kits (CBKs) — are one intervention that can help promote proper birth practices as a supplement to other public health interventions such as health worker training, maternal education programs, and community-based behavior change. A CBK typically includes the minimum requirements to facilitate clean cutting and tying of the umbilical cord. They often contain gloves, aprons, cutting surface, gauze, clean blade, etc. The existing evidence positively supports the use of CBKs, and they seem to help reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity from infection-related causes. Yet the evidence could be stronger.

As with all delivery of medical supplies, there are potential consequences if they are delivered without supporting education on their correct usage. For example, CBKs might confuse women about where they should go to give birth to their child. The GWED-G staff on the ground will have to ensure that mothers know to bring the CBK to a health facility rather than use it at home. Even though our project is small-scale, it can perhaps provide a case study of the grassroots implementation of CBKs, and thus contribute to this body of research.

Right now, we’re in the stages of figuring out how to best procure the CBKs and distribute them to women in Gulu.  We are facing the common dilemma of how to distribute medical supplies in the most sustainable manner possible. We know that we do not wish to develop the systems of dependency that can arise from a one-way flow of resources. Thus, we are talking to Pamela (the director of GWED-G) about how to obtain locally produced goods of the same standards. On the other hand, we have access to birth kits from the US that would otherwise be thrown away, and could ship these to Gulu. While perhaps unsustainable from a development point of view, this method tackles environmental sustainability by reducing waste and encouraging recycling.

All of these questions exemplify the importance of critically evaluating our approach to development, and demonstrates how GlobeMed’s philosophy manifests itself in our work day-to-day.  Even though it’s hard to look at a pile of donated, unused medical supplies sitting here in the US, we have to think about what is going to be most effective in the long run.

Together with GWED-G, we will continue working to better the well-being of the young mothers in Gulu.  Safe birth is an essential component of maternal and newborn health, and a basic right.

Source: Clean Birth Kits — a potential to deliver? Evidence, experience, estimated livessaved and cost. Blencowe, H, Lawn J, Graham W. Save the Children and Impact 2010.

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One response to “Grappling with Sustainability: Reflections on Mama Kits

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Keeping it Clean — thoughts on Mama Kits « Our Mango Tree -- Topsy.com·

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