22 June 2020

Partner Spotlight: Five Questions With Swedish Organization for Global Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized hard-won gains in women’s, children’s and adolescent health. Though women and children are at less risk from the virus itself, the knock-off effects—such as limited access to vaccines and sexual and reproductive health resources—are projected to do immense harm. Every Woman Every Child believes that women and children must be placed at the center of COVID-19 recovery plans. In that spirit, we have launched a new “Five Questions” feature to feature partners who are working to make sure that no one from these vulnerable groups is left behind. 

1. What is your organization’s primary concern with the global pandemic as it relates to women, children and adolescents?

As the pandemic spreads, we start to realize that health impacts go far beyond SARS-CoV2 related infections. The pandemic and implemented countermeasures hamper accessibility to the most fundamental healthcare services, including maternal and child healthcare. The negative long-term impacts are especially evident for the most vulnerable populations and in resource-constrained healthcare settings. Even during a pandemic, pregnant women and adolescent girls will still require antenatal care, skilled birth attendance and hospital facilities to ensure safe delivery of their babies. Therefore, maternal and child healthcare requires continuous support even during these challenging times. We at Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH) passionately care about improving the health of mothers and newborns. We believe that ensuring accessibility to maternal and child health services at its best under the current situation is paramount to save lives and prevent a setback in the achievements made in global maternal health.

2. What concrete actions are you taking to advance/safeguard the goals of the EWEC Global Strategy during this time, specifically for ending all preventable deaths among women, children and adolescents by 2030?

We are committed to support our Mama & Family project even more, ensuring access to health services for pregnant women, mothers and infants even during the COVID-19 crisis. The project provides maternal health care service in six villages (Maina, Bulundo, Kyete, Girigiri, Mwezi A and Mwezi B) which are located in Mayuge District, South-East Uganda, an area that is lacking access to such services. Local community health workers (CHWs) are at the core of the project, conducting home visits to pregnant women in our project area. During a home visit, the CHW offers the mother-to-be information on birth preparedness, the importance of attending antenatal care and giving birth in a health facility. Birth kits are provided to women to ensure a safe birth, but also give them the choice to deliver their babies safely even at home, if they would like to do so. After birth, the community health worker equips the mother with information on her reproductive rights, family planning and newborn care.

However, it is important to acknowledge that maintaining our activities within the Mama & Family project during the pandemic could potentially contribute to the spread of the virus. Therefore, special precautions are required in order to prevent further transmission, especially among vulnerable populations. Together with our partners in Uganda, SOGH carefully monitors the situation on the ground and strictly integrates all official guidelines and recommendations to ensure safety for mothers, children as well as CHWs and healthcare staff. CHWs and health staff at the local clinic have been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), specific training and written information on COVID-19 health and safety measures in the local language. The communities have also been provided, through CHWs’ sensitization activities, with information about hygiene and safety measures and two washing stations have been installed in each village to facilitate hand hygiene practice. CHWs are even more central in the current situation because by talking with their communities, they can capture concerns and challenges people are facing.

3. How are you supporting national COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, particularly in ensuring that women, children and adolescents remain at the center of such efforts?

SOGH is currently not able to engage in the active response to COVID-19 in Sweden, neither by supporting directly the health system nor by the production of data, useful for understanding the new pathogen. However, as a global health organization, SOGH supports the national combat of the pandemic in Sweden by sharing reliable information about COVID-19 with our followers on social media and our website and by integrating official guidelines regarding COVID-19 in all our activities. SOGH is also not involved in the national effort to prevent the spreading of the virus in Uganda. However, by keeping the Mama & Family project services running during this time we, and our partner UDHA, hope to underline the importance of maintaining the health of women, adolescent girls and children at the centre. We know that during a crisis such as this women and children can fall behind in the priority list. That is why we also use our platforms, social media and website, to bring awareness regarding the importance of maternal and child health during these times.

4. What impact will your organization have on the lives of women, children and adolescents, and how are you measuring this?

The Mama & Family project has been able to provide better access to maternal healthcare for women/girls in the rural communities on the project site. Moreover, the project has been fundamental in providing knowledge around maternal and newborn health to the communities covered by the project. At the core of this success are the CHWs who mind the gap between communities and healthcare. CHWs, who attend refresher training every year, spread the
knowledge about maternal health and related topics, such as family planning, through home visits to pregnant women and mothers and community dialogues. Overall, the project has been successful in making maternal health a community’s priority. Data of the project comes both from the health clinic and from CHWs. Over the years, the monitoring tools have been implemented to improve data quality and better comparisons between project years. However, we are still working to improve our monitoring system to capture the total number of pregnant women per village at any given year, including the ones that might not be participating in the project. Furthermore, the impact of the COVID-19 intervention is currently being evaluated through phone interviews conducted with the CHWs, before and after they have been provided with information and material. The surveys are repeated every two to three weeks so we and our NGO partner, UDHA, can monitor the situation overtime. The survey asks about the CHWs’ work and personal situation, but also about their community and how they are holding on during this crisis. If the COVID-19 situation would allow, later in the year, we might include a survey with other community members.

5. Who (partner organizations) are you working with to achieve this?”
The Mama & Family project has been co-developed and implemented with our partner NGO
Uganda Development & Health Associates, UDHA.