During my recent trip to Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, I was reminded of how Pathfinder’s partnerships with different individuals and across different sectors, countries, and communities protect women’s rights and save women’s lives.
Dr. Yemisi Femi-Pius, director of Pathfinder’s Saving Mothers, Giving Life Project in Cross River State, Nigeria, reported remarkable numbers of lives saved. From 2016 to 2019, 66 percent fewer women and 47 percent fewer newborns died from complications during childbirth in health facilities than during a comparable period in Cross River State before the project began.
Saving Mothers, Giving Life, at its heart, is a public-private partnership. Lives could not have been saved without support from our donors—the US Government and MSD for Mothers. They allowed us to invest in an evidence-based approach that supported communities to recognize obstetric emergencies, provide transportation to facilities, and receive timely and quality medical interventions at facilities—protecting a woman’s right to safe maternity care.
Community health volunteers engaged through our partnerships with local organizations taught individuals how to recognize danger signs and where to find transport. They also encouraged pregnant women to attend antenatal care visits, go to health facilities for deliveries, and participate in contraceptive counseling.
Traditional birth attendants, as respected members of their communities, play an important role in maternal healthcare across Nigeria’s rural areas. They can serve as the bridge between rural communities and the health system. Our partnership with traditional birth attendants offered women in labor a trusted voice. They were often the ones to escort women to health facilities for their deliveries and provided the emotional support women need during the birthing experience.
Partnerships across sectors led to the integration of new technologies into our work. We used an app called HelloMama—adapted from Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Center®—to distribute information on maternal and newborn health to mothers in Cross River State. Through We Care Solar, we equipped health facilities suffering from chronic power outages with solar electric suitcases.
As in Nigeria, I met with government officials in Côte d’Ivoire who view Pathfinder as an essential partner in improving women’s lives.
Through our partnership with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, we have given Ivorian women access to a long-acting reversible contraceptive method—the intrauterine device (IUD)— during the postpartum period. Mothers are offered this contraceptive within a full range of methods scientifically approved for use after pregnancy. This gives them immediate access to one of the most effective contraceptive options for spacing or preventing another pregnancy.
Since 2016, Pathfinder has worked in 23 health facilities to introduce the postpartum IUD. The government is now ready to roll out this method to additional hospitals across the country with Pathfinder as a partner.
In Côte d’Ivoire, 6,500 women are expected to lose their lives in labor and delivery this year. Ivoirian gynecologists shared with us that unsafe abortion is the third highest cause of death in pregnant women. We are supported by a group of European donors through our Resonance Project to advocate for access to safe abortion in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Côte d’Ivoire, as a country still recovering from years of conflict, continues to rebuild its health system. We are assisting the government with creation of a health development plan for Côte d’Ivoire’s Agnéby-Tiassa region. This plan ensures the right of Ivorian women and girls to comprehensive reproductive health care, serving as a model that could be replicated nationally.
I thank our partners in Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and around the world for helping us to protect women’s rights and save women’s lives. I look forward to forming many more of these formidable partnerships in the future.