The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (through Translating Research into Action and University Research Co., LLC) recently awarded two $600,000 grants to determine the effect of “abuse and neglect” of pregnant and laboring mothers has on their obtaining skilled attendants at childbirth.
The Population Council and the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Project at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health will use the grants to study childbirth in Kenya and Tanzania, working closely with local resources and healthcare providers to determine the extent of disrespect in childbirth in these areas and what interventions would be most suitable for minimizing the effects of this abuse and neglect.
USAID describes “abuse and neglect” as encompassing humiliation; lack of respect for the woman; discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; and physical and verbal abuse, among others. A report accompanying the press release quotes an interviewee as stating, “I think most of our women don’t know they have the right to respectful treatment….They accept what they get.” The report also goes into further detail about the treatment of laboring women as a human rights issue and the role that leadership plays in bettering care and the access to care.
The overall purpose of the grants is to further United Nations Millennium Development Goal Five, which is to improve maternal health, including reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters. A major stumbling block in achieving this goal has been the lack of skilled care available to women, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa, and a general reluctance to utilize the care available, often thought to be a result of the lack of respect with which the birthing women are treated.
TRAction, the Population Council, and the AMDD Project will also work with the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood to create a leadership council and promote respectful and appropriate care during childbirth.