“When a mother receives the kit, she is happy. She feels that the kit will make her safe.” – Jun Ping, nurse, Tahoy District, Laos.
It’s true: the Clean Birth Kits my organization CleanBirth.org provides pregnant women in southern Laos do make birth safer when used correctly. Kits contain everything a mother needs to prevent infection in herself and her baby: gloves, soap, 2 clean absorbent pads, clean blade, 2 clean cord clamps, and picture instructions.
However, while the contents of this small pink bag can save lives, there is no guarantee they will.
In order to truly impact outcomes, the kits must be distributed by nurses who counsel mothers and families to use the supplies in a hygienic way, in the proper order, with a birth helper present.
The pivotal role of the local nurses is a lesson I have learned since we began supplying kits 3 years ago. Nurses speak the language, share the culture, and venture deep into jungle villages. They are the sole hope of villagers, who cannot travel to clinics due to distance, petrol expense, and washed out roads.
Well-trained nurses ensure that the promise of the small pink bags is realized in a healthy birth for baby and mother.
CleanBIrth.org works to give nurses the training they need by funding two trainings per year. This March, with our local partner and volunteer midwives from the Yale School of Nursing, we will again train nurses about Clean Birth Kits and the WHO’s Essentials of Newborn Care.
This year’s training will have a special focus on “Training the Trainer.” We want nurses to not only learn but to become teachers themselves.
To achieve our goal of training each and every one of the 62 nurses at the 31 clinics we serve, we need your help to raise $15,000 by February 13th.
You the readers and contributors of World Moms Blog have supported CleanBirth.org since it’s founding in 2012, and this year is no exception.
We are counting on you again. Please visit World Moms Blog’s fundraising page and donate what you can: $5 funds a birth kit, $120 provides Clean Birth Kits training for a nurse. http://cleanbirth.causevox.com/world-moms-blog
Thank you for your support!
Since 2012, we have trained 200+ nurses and staff and provided 3,000 Clean Birth Kits to moms and babies in Laos. We pay nurses a stipend for the work that they do for CleanBirth.org.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Kristyn Zalota, Founder CleanBirth.org
Photo Credits: Kristyn Zalota, Cleanbirth.org
October 16 was World Food Day and it got me thinking about food issues in Laos, the country where my non-profit, CleanBirth.org works.
Laos’ rate of stunting — low height for age as a result of chronic malnutrition — is staggering. A full 44 % of the population has stunted growth. In the remote areas where I work, stunting affects 54 % of children under 5, one of the highest rates in the country.
What are the causes of stunting?
The WHO sites multiple causes:
- Maternal factors. Mom’s diet before, during and after pregnancy, while breastfeeding is very important to a child’s future growth.
- Food insecurity. 80% of the Lao population lives in rural areas where the wet season brings rain-destroying crops. Pests are another big contributor to food shortages.
- Poor Hygiene. For example, according to UNICEF, “four out of five households do not dispose of children’s feces correctly and hygienically, an indication of poor health awareness.” Food and water are often consumed in a contaminated state.
- Non-exclusive breastfeeding. A study by Kaufmann et al found that pre-chewed rice was given to 20-48% of Lao infants in the first week of life. Another study shows a link between this rice supplementation and stunting.
- Poor quality foods, inadequate quantity, infrequent feeding. Nutrition experts find that over-reliance on rice and inadequate animal protein are to blame for much of the stunting.
What are the consequences of stunting?
- Problems with cognitive motor and language development.
- Difficulty in school and lower employment productivity/achievement.
- Lower adult statue, other health issues.
The Way Forward.
- Nutrition education is critical. “Even small changes in food preparation, such as adding salt at the end of the cooking process to increase iodine intake, can help,” said Aachal Chand of the World Food Programme.
- Government Action. The Lao government has a plan of action and participates in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) program, focused on sanitation, development and women’s education to improve nutrition.
With such a focus on the food issues we face in the developed world, its important to take a look at the situation at the other end of the food spectrum.
What food issues are most pressing in your country?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog By Kristyn Zalota, founder CleanBirth.org.
Photo Credit: Kristyn Zalota
The Truth About Fundraising.
When I talk about the fundraising work that I do for the organization I started, CleanBirth.org, I often hear in response, “I could never ask people for money.”
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a choice. When I began providing moms with life-saving birth supplies, in partnership with a local NGO in Laos, I used my own funds. Happily, the $5 kits proved effective and more moms wanted the sterile, convenient supplies that prevent deadly infections in moms and babies. How could I say no?
So I promised to fund as many kits as were needed.
Since we began in November 2012 we have provided 4,000 birth kits to moms and training for 180 nurses and staff.
Knowing that my own funds couldn’t sustain the project, I told my story to others. I wasn’t great at promoting the project at first but many friends and family supported me anyways. The tagline: $5 Saves 2 Lives in Laos proved irresistible.
Now 3 years on, the project has grown beyond my own social network. Thanks to bloggers at World Moms Blogs and others, we have extended our reach worldwide. I am constantly touched by the simple notes of support that accompany donations from complete strangers:
Thank you for doing what you do for mothers and babies!
Another great aspect of fundraising is working with others who want to share their special gifts to make birth safer. One example is a fun collaboration happening now for Mother’s Day. World Moms Blogger and photographer Ewa Kuc of Ewa Samples Photography in the Bay Area has developed awesome Mother’s Day photo session packages. A full 40% of the profits go to CleanBirth.org!
In my almost 3 years doing this, I have come to appreciate that fundraising is a give and take proposition.
I’m not just taking money but giving something to donors: a feeling of making a positive impact in the world; the piece of mind that comes from donating to a transparent, registered organization; or a tangible gift to give a loved one.
One such gift, our $10 Mother’s Day cards, honor mom or grandma & provide 2 moms in Laos with Clean Birth Kits.
So the truth about fundraising is that I do ask for money. (Please click here to buy our Mother’s Day cards!! J) But I also get to connect with many generous people who are committed to making their world a better place. We each give, and we each take. Not so scary after all.
What benefits do you receive from donating or volunteering with a non-profit?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Kristyn Zalota, the founder of Clean birth.org
Photo credits Kristyn Zalota.
While I still have the opportunity to write another post for the WMB community before leaving Laos later this year, I feel compelled to tell you about child nutrition and the problem of stunting in Laos because stunting is a seemingly invisible problem that can go unnoticed unless special attention is drawn to highlight the issue.
Ethnically, most Southeast Asian people are shorter and have a smaller frames than most other races throughout the world. This fact makes it easy to say that Lao babies and children tend to be small or smaller because of their race.
Yet at first glance Lao children appear to be healthy (and super cute), a closer look and personal interaction will almost always reveal that the children are a few years older than what you had first assumed. I recently met an adorable girl in a northern village at a school where I delivered books by boat since there is no road access to her village. Upon speaking with her (in Lao) I was impressed by how well behaved, articulate and “mature” she was for what I assumed to be a 6-year old. (I have two 4-year old twins so I was instantly optimistic about their potential in just two short years to be as well behaved as this girl.) She turned out to be 10-years old. This has happened time and time again to me, to my colleagues, and to many newcomers to Laos.
Lao children are among the most undernourished in Southeast Asia with 44% stunting of children under 5-years old. It is the single largest contributor to infant and child mortality in the country with 59% of all child deaths related to nutritional deficiencies. Chronic malnutrition predisposes children to higher morbidity and mortality, lower educational attainment, and reduced workforce productivity.
For a country experiencing rapid economic growth and increasing income disparities, fierce external human resource competition puts the country at risk of leaving a majority of the Lao population behind others who will be more able to keep apace. Stunting is a problem that needs be addressed for the immediate wellbeing of Lao children and to be resolved for the future potential of the Lao people.
The Lao government is working closely with experts and development partners on how to tackle this important issue. It is not easy. Poor breast-feeding and weaning practices are widespread. Almost all mothers give food supplements (such as chewed glutinous rice), and pure water, to infants within a few weeks of birth. Harmful practices (such as discarding colostrum) and other food taboos for pregnant women reduce disease resistance for newborns and increase fetal undernutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies, inadequate intake of vitamin A, anemia and iodine deficiency, all further hinder child development.
The current health system is not only faced with challenges of delivering micronutrients, immunizations and necessary vitamins to the most vulnerable population, but they are additionally burdened by the daunting task of changing people’s behaviors to improve dietary habits, increase nutritional intake, and overcoming cultural belief and religious belief obstacles to improved nutrition status among rural and multi-ethnic communities. The task is daunting.
What is being done and what needs to be done?
There are some great organization here making slow but successful strides on a small-scale basis. UNICEF, WFP, IFAD, Save the Children, the Scale Up Nutrition initiative and others who are collaborating closely with government health officials, but resources are scarce, especially in an often overlooked country like Laos.
- We can channel financial support to these organizations for their work on nutrition in Laos.
- We can lobby our governments to increase foreign assistance resources to address the poor state of healthcare in Laos (e.g., Laos is not one of the United States’ ‘priority countries’ receiving Global Health Initiative (GHI) funding. Ask U.S. representatives, Why not?)
- We can voice our concern to private and public interests who are taking advantage of opportunities in Laos to improve their social welfare practices by investing in better healthcare in communities where they pursue their business interests.
- We can ask the question to anyone willing to listen about who should be accountable to improving the welfare of children beginning their lives under such great odds in Laos.
Hopefully someday, someone will listen and take action.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow in Vientiane, Laos. You can always find her writing on her blog, Wanderlustress.
Photo credit attributed to the author.
As many of you know, my organization CleanBirth.org works to make birth safer in Laos, which has among the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world.
Due to the generous support of so many of you in 2013, with our local Lao partner Our Village Association, CleanBirth.org provided 2,000 AYZH Clean Birth Kits, served 150 villages, trained 15 nurses and 20 Village Volunteers.
The training of the last group, Village Volunteers, is particularly exciting. The nurses we train about Clean Birth Kits and safe birthing practices, have begun passing their knowledge to women from each remote village.
The nurses explain how to use and distribute the Clean Birth Kits, as well as how to track their use with a picture data sheet. They cover topics like safe pregnancy, the importance of having a partner during delivery (many women birth alone) and the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.
Photo provided by CleanBirth.org
A government representative who attended the Village Volunteer training in December 2013 was impressed and said, “We need more of these trainings throughout the Province.” That kind of validation from the government is essential to scaling up the project.
In another positive development that will enable us to expand training for nurses and Village Volunteers, CleanBirth.org has formed an alliance with the Yale University School of Nursing.
In July 2014, Yale Midwifery students will teach 30 local nurses the World Health Organization’s Essentials of Newborn Care. The Essentials are: clean birth, newborn resuscitation, skin to skin newborn care, basic newborn care and breastfeeding. This information will then be incorporated into the Village Volunteers training.
By providing access to the midwives from Yale, our Lao partners, the local nurses and Village Volunteers will have more tools to improve care for mothers and infants. This promotes our mission to make birth safer by empowering those on the ground with the training and resources they need.
We want to maximize the Yale Midwifery visit in July 2014 by raising $8,250 to fund the training of 30 nurses. To that end, CleanBirth.org is launching a crowdfunding campaign from February 4 – March 4.
Photo provided by CleanBirth.org
We are so lucky that World Moms Blog has signed on to support us again this year. During last year’s crowdfunding campaign WMB raised $685 and tons of awareness.
Please join us February 6 from 12-1 EST and 9-10 EST for a World Moms Blog & CleanBirth.org Twitter Party to talk about making birth safe worldwide. It is easy to join in by going to tweetchat and entering #CleanBirth.
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Kristyn Zalota. Kristyn is the founder of CleanBirth.org, a non-profit working to improve maternal and infant health in Laos. She holds MA from Yale, is a DONA doula and Lamaze educator. She lives in New Haven, CT with her husband and two children. Click here to watch Kristyn talking about her project. Email her are email@example.com. To find out more check out:
What do you think is in a Clean Birth kit? Click here to find out!
As many of you know, one year ago I started CleanBirth.org, a non-profit aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality in Laos. We provide nurses with training, birthing supplies and funding to educate village volunteers about safe birthing practices.
One tenet of my organization is that local people call the shots on-the-ground, while Westerners provide the resources and funds. Local nurses are empowered to develop and execute programs which empower expecting mothers to have safer births.
There’s that darling of non-profit speak: empower. Oxford defines it: to “… make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.” A worthy goal, certainly, but sometimes I worry:
“Can foreigners really empower locals to find long-term solutions to their own problems?”
Photo By Kristyn Zalota
I thought about this on my long journey to Laos in June to train twelve nurses. On this second CleanBirth Training trip, I wanted to see that the nurses were taking ownership of our CleanBirth Kits Program. I also wanted to hear their new ideas about ways that we can make birth safer.
From the beginning, it was clear they the nurses wanted to learn and participate. They were “…thrilled to have been invited…none of them had ever been asked to a training like this before.” They asked pertinent questions about the CleanBirth Kits Program and grasped the importance of accurately reporting data.
As we moved on to additional ideas for making birth safer, they became even more engaged. Dr. Nong, my Lao partner, had to write furiously to keep up with the nurses’ suggestions. I sat back and smiled, thinking:
“This is exactly the way it should be. I, the Westerner, am in the background, while they, the locals, are finding their own answers.”
In the end Dr. Nong and the nurses drafted an outline for our new initiative: CleanBirth Volunteer Training. The nurses will gather one woman from each of the villages that she serves to learn about Clean Birth Kits, safe birth practices, and prenatal and infant care. The first CleanBirth Volunteer Training will be held in October.
So have we empowered these nurses? Are we giving women more control over their lives and births in the 100 remote communities that we serve? I’d say that we are off to a good start. The nurses have the funds and the tools that they need. They have designed the solution themselves. Now, we must wait and see what happens next.
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Kristyn Zalota.
What do you think? Is it truly possible as an outsider to empower locals of another culture in a sustainable way?