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Field Trip: Maternal Health in Budondo

Blog By Katherine Brown

Katherine standing with the MPHL students as well as Ivan and his team. Ivan is the second man to Katherine's left, standing on a lower step.

I took part in my first field trip yesterday. Well, my first field trip with Save the Mothers' Master of Public Health Leadership (MPHL) class. I travelled with nine students to Budondo, a sub-county of Jinja District in Uganda. We visited Ivan, an alumnus of the MPHL program who has been working to implement safe motherhood programs in the area. This vision trip was meant to inspire current students, to help them see how their own education and passion may make an impact. It certainly challenged me.

Imagine being a pregnant woman in Uganda soon to give birth. You have the good fortune of arriving at the hospital when the single bed in the Labour Ward Room is free. The woman after you may have to give birth in the hallway, possibly even on the floor if no bed is available. It is nighttime and the health care facility has no electricity. Your midwife lights a lantern illuminating a portion of the room with a dull glow. There is also no running water in the building and the gathered supply is low. Your contractions grow closer together, your body writhing in pain. In her urgency to attend you, the midwife knocks over the lantern. The room is plunged into darkness. Your attendant's vision now impaired, you give birth in the black of night.

This was the kind of picture painted by Ivan as he shared with us the struggles of promoting safe motherhood in Budondo. Many mothers have faced much worse. Until recently, four of six hospitals in the area were without power. But health care facilities in this sub-country of Jinja now have an advocate. Ivan lobbied the district government and Ministry of Health. In turn he received funding for solar powered lights and running water in area hospitals. These seemingly basic health care essentials are often not present. Now women in Budondo need not fear giving birth in darkness. This is just one area of maternal health in which Ivan and his team have worked for change.

Throughout our field trip, the MPHL students were attentive and interested. As those in this class approach the completion of their degree, students are now looking forward to applying their newly acquired skills. Hailing from Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda and DRC, the potential breadth of their influence is wide. The challenges in East Africa are great. Many mothers and infants are needlessly dying during childbirth. That is why Save the Mothers is training professionals to make a positive impact in their communities. If those nine MPHL students are inspired to follow Ivan's example, I think the future is bright.

Richard (Dad) insists that Katherine not use the "boda boda" as a taxi.


Katherine Brown is the daughter of Moira Brown. She is currently working in Uganda as an intern with Save the Mothers, a Canadian charity. The charity runs a Master in Public Health Leadership (MPHL) program at Uganda Christian University and Katherine serves as the assistant to Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, the Executive Director of the program. 

P.S. from Moira:

A big HUG to all those who attended Crossroads' TOGETHER Women's Conference in Calgary on October 4th.  Your compassion and generosity provided over $20,000 to help save the lives of mothers and babies in East Africa.

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