No Woman Left Behind

By: Ibrahima Kane

My commitment: Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99% of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is the leading cause of this high maternal mortality. In Senegal the maternal mortality rate is 329 per 100000 women. Home delivery and delivery at maternity hubs in villages are the main cause of hemorrhage of post-partum and maternal mortality. In order to address this issue in developing countries, No Woman Left Behind will train traditional and auxiliary midwives to use misoprostol (a cheap, thermo-stable, effective, easy to use (orally or rectally) synthetic prostaglandin that causes the contraction of the uterus and prevent it from bleeding after delivery). The NWLB trainees will go through a daylong program using PPT, dummies, and brochures (in the local languages) and provide them with samples of misoprostol so they can use it when they help pregnant women to delivery at home. I will train trainers who will be essentially medical student volunteers. These trainers will train other traditional and auxiliary midwives on an ongoing manner from the rural community of Diender (19 villages) to the rest of Senegal and eventually to the rest of the developing countries. With a budget of less than $6100 I will train every year more than 2000 women who will delivery vital and needed health care to their community. This care is really needed. For example, in the rural community of Diender, they have only three midwives for 19 villages. These women (trainees) will use the competences for all the rest of their lifetime and will transmit it to the younger generation.’ In Africa whenever “an elder dies, a library burns down’’ because knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation. With the same budget I will train a traditional midwife to use misoprostol and provide her 6  samples of misoprostol for only $3.05.

What motivated me? I was born and grew up in a small village (Diender) in Senegal. In my village, women give birth at home with the help of elderly women or traditional midwifes. My own mother gave birth at home to all her twelve children. As a young man I thought it was normal for women to give birth at home because I didn’t know anyone else that gave birth in a hospital.  After my primary school years, I move to the capital city Dakar to continue my education because Diender didn’t have a middle school. Moving to the city I started to realize that it was not normal. After my high school, I went to Morocco to study medicine and I realized that these women are risking their life every time when they give birth at home. Finally, after my second year of medical school, I came back home for vacation to visit my parents. My mother asked if I remembered one young woman who lived near our house, and I said yes. She told she passed away after she gave birth because she was bleeding a lot. She added: “Anyway, it is the God’s desire”. In my country and in most parts of the developing world, people attribute almost everything to God, especially when they are not able to do something about it. Since I was in medical school, I realized that that young healthy woman certainly died from a hemorrhage of postpartum because she gave birth at home without any medical. I told myself that if the hemorrhage of postpartum could be easily avoided or handled when it happens, then something needs to be done. That is why I decided to use my knowledge, my energy, and my resources to save more than thousands of women lives.

Next steps? My next step is to look for funds in order to implement my project. I have the opportunity to write the whole project from the beginning to the end. I have already done my interviews with potential stakeholders in Senegal. The project is still in competition for the D-Prize that may fund it.

Experience at CGI U: I was thrilled to be highlighted among the 1,100 students participating. About a dozen projects were highlighted in the plenary sessions, in total: I was mentioned at 00:40 (40 seconds into video). I had a chance to share my experience with the GW today reporter and she summarized my experience in these words.

Ibrahima Kane, a graduate student in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, was another student to be highlighted in the plenary and one such inspiring peer. In Dr. Kane’s home country of Senegal, more than 40 percent of women give birth at home with the help of traditional midwives. Postpartum bleeding is a major cause of maternal mortality. With his project, No Woman Left Behind, Dr. Kane plans to create a structure of education and distribution that will teach these midwives to use misoprostol—a cheap, effective and durable medication classified as “essential” by the World Health Organization—to help save their charges’ lives.

CGI U, he said, “was incredible.”