Lowering Maternal Mortality One Life at a Time in Democratic Republic of the Congo

{Photo Credit: MSH Staff}Noƫlla and her healthy newborn baby at the Kabindula health center.Photo Credit: MSH Staff

Noëlla Bitisho, 29, gave birth to her third child at the Kabindula Health Center in December 2015. As with her first two deliveries, this one was challenging, and it looked like there could be complications and possible hemorrhage.

Maternal mortality remains high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), at 846 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the most recently completed Demographic and Health Survey. Hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death in the country.

Fortunately, the team of midwives at the Kabindula health center had been trained by the USAID-funded Integrated Health Project plus (IHPplus) in maternal and child health, including emergency obstetric and newborn care. They applied active management of the third stage of labor (AMTSL) techniques to protect Noëlla from hemorrhage and she and her baby from other complications. Right after the birth, they administered oxytocin, uterine massage, and other preventive techniques. Mother and baby both came through unscathed.

Noëlla later told a health center nurse that she thanks "God, the midwives, and the health center for saving my life."

Thanks to technical and financial support from the USAID-funded Integrated Health Project (IHP) and now IHPplus, the Uvira health zone correctly applied AMTSL approaches in 88 percent of the more than 51,000 assisted deliveries between January 2011 and December 2015.

Uvira is one of 27 health zones in Sud Kivu to have received IHP support. At the Kabindula Health Center, where Noëlla delivered, Nurse Chikale said: "The staff have correctly applied AMTSL techniques during 100 percent of deliveries — 2,156 out of 2,156 — from October 2013 through December 2015. Before IHP's intervention, the AMTSL approach was used — sometimes with incorrect techniques — in only 94 percent of deliveries, and there was no oxytocin at the center."