Global Running Day: Going the Distance to Connect Mothers to Maternity Care

To access maternity care that is essential during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, mothers must first be able to reach a care provider. When the closest healthcare facility is miles away and transportation is too costly, distance to care is a critical barrier to a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

More than half of women in developing countries give birth at home, often far from heath centers and hospitals where they can access emergency obstetric care. Even in the United States, mothers are giving birth in maternity care deserts, as more and more obstetric units close in rural and urban areas across the country. No woman should have to travel an hour or more to get the maternity care needed to keep herself and her baby healthy, but that is the reality for many women in the United States — and even more around the world.

Every Mother Counts partners with organizations around the world who implement grassroots solutions to increase access for mothers to safe and respectful maternity care. For Global Running Day, we highlight three of our global partners who work to close the distance to care for mothers.

Bringing care to mothers

When health facilities are too far, community outreach can provide a crucial link in bringing maternity care to people’s homes.

The HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh meets women where they are by conducting community outreach to provide mothers with prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care. Health workers from the HOPE Foundation go door-to-door to meet with families and to educate pregnant women and their support networks on the importance of accessing health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Through this outreach, the HOPE Foundation is able to reach the most remote communities of rural Bangladesh to provide quality maternity care and childbirth education.

The HOPE Foundation’s community outreach program in Bangladesh (Photo by Josh Estey)

The midwives at the Association of Midwives of the Mam Speaking Area (ACAM) in Guatemala conduct regular mobile clinics in hard-to-reach communities to offer prenatal, family planning, and primary care to mothers who would otherwise not have access to a health facility or a healthcare provider. When women are unable to make it to the ACAM birth center for routine visits, these mobile clinics are an opportunity to receive essential maternity care without the challenge of finding and paying for transportation.

Bringing mothers to care

For referrals and emergency situations, access to obstetric care can be critical and life-saving. Alternative forms of transport can bring mothers to higher level facilities to receive the care they need in communities without ambulances or emergency transportation.

ACAM midwives travel to provide care (Photo by Janet Jarman)

In addition to bringing care to their communities through mobile clinics, the midwives of ACAM also bring communities directly to higher level care by facilitating referrals and transportation. They are able to support mothers who need extra attention or specialized care for complications by offering transport by van when needed and developing plans for referral with each of their remote communities.

Our first investment in Baylor Uganda’s Boda for Mothers program brought pregnant and postpartum women directly to health facilities for their maternity care needs. Mothers received vouchers for motorcycle rides on boda bodas, ensuring that they could access to transportation to the nearest clinic for prenatal visits, delivery, and a postpartum check-up. The program has now graduated to its next phase, which incorporates a Village Savings and Loan program to help communities save for health-related transport and other healthcare costs.

A boda boda transports a pregnant mother to care with support from Baylor Uganda (Photo by Venetia Dearden)

Whether or not a woman is able to access quality maternity care should not be dictated by where she lives. At Every Mother Counts, we’ve run thousands of miles to support partners who make sure that mothers are able to get to the care they need. When the distance between a pregnant woman and the nearest facility can be the difference between life and death, every mile counts.

By Yuki Davis, Programs Associate at Every Mother Counts

Learn more about the work that Every Mother Counts supports around the world at everymothercounts.org.

Topics: Childbirth, Maternal Health, Pregnancy