Scaling up life saving innovations for mothers and newborns

Monday, 9 Apr 2018
  • Assembling UBT parts at the KMET centre for Maternal Health Innovations unit
    Assembling UBT parts at the KMET centre for Maternal Health Innovations unit
  • Separate parts of the UBT kit
    Separate parts of the UBT kit
How a low-cost, simple intervention saves a mother's life.

Innovation in Kenya’s health care system, particularly to prevent maternal and newborn death, is key to the country’s growth and development. The UKAid-funded County Innovation Challenge Fund (CICF) supports the design and delivery of innovative interventions, products, processes, services, technologies or ideas to catalyse faster reduction in maternal and newborn mortality.

The Uterine Balloon Tamponade (UBT) is one of these innovative interventions that alleviates the risk of death for women suffering from postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). Defined by the World Health Organisation as a blood loss of 500ml or more within 24 hours after birth, PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality in most low-income countries. In Kenya, PPH is the cause of around 30% of all maternal deaths.

Through the Massachusetts General Hospital’s invention of an ultra-low cost UBT kit that costs less than US$5, Options has supported it’s pilot roll out in Garissa County, and subsequent scale up in Turkana, Homa bay and Bungoma Counties; as well as its assembly by local partner Kisumu Medical and Education Trust. So far, hundreds of Kenyan women’s lives have been saved, hundreds of healthcare providers have been taught how to use the kit, and over 8,000 kits have been assembled and distributed. The kit consists of a urinary catheter, a condom, cotton string ties, a large syringe, and a one-way valve.

Fatuma, a resident of Garissa County, is someone whose life was saved by a UBT kit. She was taken to Kotile Health Centre in Masalani sub-county on the night of 29th June 2017, when she began experiencing labour pains. Despite being her eighth pregnancy, it was her first time giving birth in a hospital. More than an hour after birth, Fatuma was still bleeding, and Lucy Mwangi, who was the nurse on duty, was monitoring her case. Being the only nurse in the facility that night - due to the 2017 nurse’s industrial strike - she had to think on her feet, on how to save Fatuma’s life.

“It quickly came to my mind that I could use the UBT kit to control the bleeding, which I have successfully done before,” recalls Lucy. She then briefly explained to Fatuma the procedure that she was about to carry out and requested her to cooperate as she inserts the UBT. It arrested the bleeding.

Fatuma, a Community Health Volunteer, said, “I am happy to be alive, and though I’ve never encouraged women to give birth in health facilities, I am now converted and will champion for hospital deliveries because of this UBT.”

The ripple effect of these successes is seen in the uptake of the Uterine Balloon Tamponade package, which has been introduced in 15 counties across the country, and is now included as an essential commodity for maternal and newborn health services. Moreover, the national government – through the Ministry of Health - has adopted it within the national guidelines for management of PPH.

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