Improving Odds of Survival for Mothers and Babies Around the World

A panel discussion highlighting the best practices for success addressing maternal and newborn health

By Brianne Binelli, online content manager, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada

MARKHAM, Ont. — Collaboration was on the agenda yesterday as peers from World Vision Canada, ADRA Canada, Emmanuel International Canada and Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) gathered to swap stories and share learnings from their work on maternal and newborn health projects around the world.

“I’m very pleased that we can come together to harness the learning that’s going to come out of this — to ask key questions about how we’re adding value to the impact we have,” said Patrick Canagasingham, CEO at Christian Children’s Fund of Canada.

James Astleford, the former executive director at ADRA, added: “I’m delighted we have this time when we are reaching out to each other. If there are walls, they are much lower and we look across them cooperatively.”

Many questions were addressed by the panel who work on maternal and newborn health projects on behalf of World Vision Canada and ADRA in Rwanda and Cambodia. Together with CCFC and Emmanuel International Canada, we’re all spurring a global commitment inked by the Canadian Government as part of the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in which $82 million will fund 28 projects.

This comes as approximately 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications daily, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s why working together to create positive outcomes for mothers and babies is so important — but it’s easier said than done. “All it takes is one person to say I went to the hospital, and I didn’t get the help I needed,” pointed out Abena Thomas, grant manager and M&E advisor for World Vision Canada.

But, that’s just one reason women around the world aren’t seeking help during their pregnancy, labour and delivery.

Florence Niyonambaza

Florence Niyonambaza

Florence Niyonambaza, field coordinator for ADRA Rwanda, noted many reasons that could apply:

  • women don’t recognize the signs of labour or know to seek help
  • women can’t read pregnancy or labour pamphlets
  • cultural practices take precedence over receiving care
  • health centres are too far and/or expensive
  • health-centre patients are helped according to who arrived first, not who’s condition is most urgent
  • care at health centres is prolonged by paperwork and disorganization
  • there’s a lack of trained professionals to treat patients
  • there’s a lack of supplies or resources
  • women aren’t treated well or respected

As a result, babies and mothers are dying. In Rwanda, hemorrhaging, infection and malaria are the leading causes of maternal deaths.

Projects supported by international development teams are going a long way to build and renovate health centres, provide medicine and supplies as well as train midwives, among other tactics. But changing mindsets is one of the biggest challenges.

Koeun Tuoth, a head of program and midwife training coordinator, representing ADRA Cambodia, talked about the importance of newly trained midwives collaborating with traditional birth attendants in rural communities to build trust among expectant mothers.

World Vision’s Thomas and Dr. Asrat Dibaba, chief of party for the same organization, talked about the importance of working with families in rural areas to address challenges together as well as creating “Channels of Hope” to learn traditions and build trust among faith leaders.

CCFC’s incorporates the longstanding cultural practice of serving porridge and coffee in its maternal and child health projects. We do this in the health centres, so families will feel welcome and have a positive experience.

Building trust through relationships with expectant moms, families, community leaders, faith leaders and governments is an ongoing process. In fact, panellists discussed their next challenge: finding a way to involve more men in family planning, pregnancy and delivery.

There’s lots to do, but together we are creating lasting change.

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada is addressing maternal health through two projects supporting six countries in Africa. These days, the focus is helping mothers and babies in Ethiopia whose lives are also being threatened by a drought. To learn more, visit

Sharing together: (top) Teams from ADRA, Christian Children’s Fund of Canda World Vision Canada came together to share learnings about maternal health. (from left: Florence Niyonambaza, field coordinator for ADRA Rwanda; Koeun Tuoth, a head of program and midwife training coordinator, representing ADRA Cambodia; Tuoth’s translator; Adey Asfaw, grants compliance manager and panel host, CCFC; Abena Thomas, grant manager and M&E advisor, World Vision Canada; Dr Asrat Dibaba, Chief of Party, World Vision).


About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For more than 55 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.