How ordinary people in Rotary do extraordinary things?
The Rotary Club of Ulaanbaatar, D3450 has joined hands with the Rotary Clubs of Waimate, Timaru and Timaru North in R.I. D9980 to address an important gap in maternal health in Mongolia by improving the birth education practices in Mongolia.
The birth of this project idea is an example of how ordinary people in Rotary do extraordinary things. Mongolia is in the midst of experiencing a mining boom and this draws experts and technicians from all over the world. It happened that the son of Allain Laurie, a member from Rotary Club of Waimatu was working with one of the mining companies in Mongolia and Allain, as a grandfather eagerly waiting for his next grandchild, on his visit to Mongolia realized that the expectant mothers here do not receive a proper training on birth education.
It has been well proven elsewhere that the attendance of mothers in birth education classes help to improve the outcome of birth, lactation and the emotional wellbeing of mothers. As a result, a successful project was born. During June – July of this year, over 100 midwives (out of our country’s total of 800 registered midwives) and allied professionals were trained by the experienced maternal health consultants from New Zealand and Australia on a specially designed course on modern maternal health care and lactation management. The course included adult education principles, lactation management and topics to enable staff to implement high quality birth education classes such as: labour progression, active birth, positions, breathing for labour, STI management, abnormal pregnancy and labour signs and normal pregnancy and labour.
Training covered all midwives working at Regional Medical Centers in Sainshand and Dalanzadgad as well as the First Maternity Hospital in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Two Regional Medical Centers in Sainshand and Dalanzadgad provide maternity services to all population of Dornogobi and Umnogobi Aimags, Gobi provinces in Southern Mongolia and the First Maternity Hospital in Ulaanbaatar is one of the three main maternity hospitals in Mongolia. Therefore, by training the midwives from these medical institutions the project benefited the large number of mothers and women who are being served by these institutions. By training the trainers, sustainability was incorporated into the project; hopefully this would lead to a significant reduction in infant mortality in Mongolia in the future.
A training manual on child birth education was developed by the project to be used for the midwife training. The manual was developed using the Mongolian language and it incorporated the best practices in child birth education from Australia, New Zealand and other countries, with adaptation in the Mongolian context. The manual was the first of its kind on birth education in Mongolia. All the trained midwives received copies of this manual and they will continue to use them in birth education classes they will conduct at their workplaces.
The project benefited tremendously from a high level of expertise offered pro-bona and the passion of maternal health consultants from Australia and New Zealand who came to Mongolia to assist with the maternal health trainings and development of training manual. The project involved two Rotarians, Jane Myers and Samantha Dunne, who together with Andy Mayer, Julie Dockrill, Beverly Te Huia and Jo Palmer travelled to remote areas of Mongolia to provide the trainings.
A number of emails from the beneficiaries have been received thanking us for the training and wanting to keep in contact. Below is some of the feedback received from the beneficiaries: “thank you for this kind of training this helps us teach women, pregnant women and new mums how to deal with problems before they arise”
“if you are going to go to other parts of Mongolia it would be really helpful for our co- workers” “this project can give us really great skills and it gave us a fun time in training but our main words will be save money, save lives, empower women.”
“we will teach our women about what we learned in our training starting TODAY” “I felt that this project has given a good start in improving maternal health training. With the hope that all the new trainers would share their wisdom and experience with each other to flourish together”
From these sincere words of the participants, it can be felt the energy and the desire expressed by pregnant women and by health care workers to implement such maternal health classes and to appeal to decision makers to budget for classes in hospitals.
The integration of the skill, knowledge and experience of the beneficiaries can ultimately have an impact on the Mongolian community as a whole. Once childbirth education classes are an integral component of pre-natal care, education will be readily available to pregnant families and new parents throughout Mongolia. In the long term, the benefits of educating pregnant women can be measured in labour and birth outcomes and in improved understanding of lactation.
One of the tangible long term impacts of this project is that it has created a better awareness of the importance of good birth education practices in outcome of pregnancy and health of mothers and highlighted the need for more sustained action from the health authorities. Capitalizing on the success of this project, the Rotary Club of Ulaanbaatar has approached the Ministry of Health of Mongolia and the United Nation’s Children Foundation (UNICEF) calling for sustained action and support on making the birth education component as a part of standard prenatal care in Mongolia. The Rotary Movement in Mongolia with the support of Rotarians from New Zealand and Australia planted the seeds for this to happen, but the health authorities need to take ownership of this initiative to make it sustainable and expand its reach at the national level.
The work is under way to turn the training manual produced within this project into a national training guide on birth education for midwives of Mongolia, with further improvements. It is hoped that the Association of Midwives of Mongolia, main professional association of midwifes will sustain the momentum and interest generated by this project and help to spread the best practices on birth education training from this project to all 800 registered midwives in Mongolia.
One of the most emotional and proudest moments of this project was the project visit by the Rotary International President Elect Gary Huang to this project during this visit to Mongolia in July this year. He commended the success of this project and highlighted how important is the work of all Rotarians involved in this project.
In my opinion, this project is a true manifestation of this year’s Rotary theme: Engage Rotary – Save Lives!