3. October 2018

Funding to help save more newborns in Mali

The training of midwives and students in the method "Helping Babies Breathe" has yielded great results in Mali. Now, a new collaboration agreement between NorSahel and the Kavli Trust will ensure that many more brand-new lives can be saved.

Up until now, 1000 midwives and midwifery students in Mali have received training from NorSahel in the method called Helping Babies Breathe (HBB). The method was already implemented in more than sixty countries, but not Mali, when NorSahel, supported by the Kavli Trust, started working there in 2015.

“The support from the Kavli Trust marked the beginning of the project in Mali,” says Hølje Haugsjå, programme manager at NorSahel.

With the renewed support from the Kavli Trust, NorSahel will scale up their work both with midwives and students.

Tailored training of midwives and midwifery students is the key to improved health in newborns. Photo: Hølje Haugsjå/NorSahel

A high infant mortality rate

For years, Mali has been plagued by political unrest, lawlessness and internal conflict. Extremist groups are destabilising the country, especially in the northern areas.

“Many Malians are uncertain about their future,” says Hølje Haugsjå.

Poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of health care services and poor security have contributed to Mali having one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Many infants die within one minute of being born.

A healthy baby in a delivery room in Mali. More children can be saved with simple technology and training. Photo: Ragnar Hatlø/NorSahel

Equipment developed by the Norwegian business Lærdal Global Health

The HBB method involves giving infants help to breathe straight after birth, using a mechanical bag and a mask. The equipment used in the method is developed by the Stavanger-based Laerdal Global Health. It is developed especially for use in areas with poor health care infrastructure and without access to electricity.

In 2017, supported by the Kavli Trust, NorSahel was the first organisation to introduce HBB 2 to Mali. HBB 2 is an improved version of the method, using two innovative, digital solutions that will strengthen the process of training personnel for births.

Training videos and an app

One of the new solutions is the introduction of training videos for health care personnel, which NorSahel has developed with support from the Kavli Trust. The videos are developed especially for health clinics in the countryside. The videos are in the local language Bambara, and they are filmed in authentic settings in a local delivery room.

The films also include information about hygiene and other aspects pertaining to the delivery rooms during birth.

The second new, digital solution presented by NorSahel is an app called HBB App. A prototype has already been developed, and testing has begun.

“For testing, we will collaborate with Laerdal Global Health and Stavanger University Hospital,” says Haugsjå.

Training in HBB at the Sananfare health care clinic in Kati, Mali. Photo: Hølje Haugsjå/NorSahel

Working with the midwifery schools

NorSahel has worked to gain access at the schools where they train midwives and other personnel helping at births.

“All together we’re active in three schools, among which is the only public university college educating midwives. Our goal is that the midwifery students will learn the HBB 2 method before interning and before they start working in the field.

New technology may improve infant health

The support will among other go towards further development of technology adapted to the conditions in Mali. The work with the HBB app continues, and the plan is also to keep developing the use of videos in training.

“Things move fast, even in a low-income country such as Mali, when it comes to the prevalence of mobile phones and mobile internet. Many places, also in more remote areas, have over the past years been connected to mobile phone and internet networks. And the reach is expanding fast,” says Højle Haugsjå.

A safe pair of hands

For this year’s International Day of the Midwife, the topic was “A safe birth needs a safe pair of hands”.

“These words concisely sum up our work in Mali. We are equipping local midwives with what they need to save lives,” says Hølje Haugsjå.

“We want to help midwives and other birth personnel in Malian villages give newborns a safe pair of hands the first minutes of their lives, thus enabling them to save more lives. We are looking forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration with the Kavli Trust with this shared goal.”

A mother and her newborn child at Moribabugu, one of the health care clinics the project supports. Photo: Hølje Haugsjå/NorSahel

Top photo: A young mother in the midwifery school INFSS in Mali is grateful to NorSahel. She has continued her midwifery training and brings her child into the classroom.