The bridge between disability and maternal health.

“For six months she remained indoors so her neighbors wouldn’t know that she was leaking.”

Hanaa’s story is a case study in the linkage between disability and maternal healthcare. Access to high quality maternal healthcare is the key to disability prevention. With skilled attendance at birth, impairments like obstetric fistula can be avoided, and congenital impairments like cleft lip/palate or clubfoot can be identified and treated in a timely manner.

With interventions focused on improving the quality of care available to expectant mothers and their newborns, we can spare patients like Hanaa from the grief of losing a baby and from unimaginable suffering.

Photo by Maddie Johnson

Hanaa was 19-years-old when she developed obstetric fistula. As soon as her labor pains began, she traveled to the nearest healthcare facility to deliver her baby. From there, she was referred to a second hospital, and then a third. Two days after her contractions began, she finally had a C-section. Her baby did not survive. Two weeks later, Hanaa discovered she was leaking urine.

Hanaa needed to heal from her C-section before she could be referred to CCBRT for a surgery to repair her fistula. Her doctors sent her home to heal, and for six months she remained indoors so her neighbors wouldn’t know that she was leaking.

She shared, “I found it difficult to wait the required six months to heal. I was crying a lot. I said to my mother ‘I cannot stay with this condition. I heard that this can be cured. Why won’t you send me to the hospital?’ The father of my child abandoned me, and I was living with a lot of grief.”

When Hanaa was finally ready for surgery, a CCBRT ambassador paid for and arranged her transportation to Dar es Salaam. Following her free surgery and comprehensive treatment, this young woman is dry and has hope for her future.

Ten years ago, CCBRT entered into a Public Private Partnership with the Government of Tanzania, joining the fight to improve the quality of maternal and newborn healthcare in the country. Today, CCBRT’s Maternal & Newborn Healthcare Capacity Building Program works in 23 public healthcare facilities in Dar es Salaam, reaching women like Hanaa with the respectful, quality care they need and deserve. Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s most populous region, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed and underequipped to meet demand that shows no sign of abating.

By training healthcare workers in key clinical skills and filling critical resource gaps in these facilities, CCBRT is equipping medical teams with the tools they need to identify and prevent impairments like fistula, and also refer newborns like Lita for treatment for conditions like cleft lip/palate, pediatric cataract or clubfoot. CCBRT works with facilities at every level, decongesting regional hospitals that should be focused on emergency and complex cases, and ensuring patients are evenly dispersed and served across the entire regional healthcare system.

In 2018, CCBRT will also open the doors to the largest dedicated maternity and newborn hospital in the country. This 200-bed referral hospital will provide high quality care for emergency and high risk cases, as well as dedicated care to sick newborns. The facility will oversee 12,000 deliveries a year.

If Hanaa had been able to access a safe C-section without delay, things could have been very different. With high quality, timely emergency obstetric care, conditions like fistula can be prevented, and babies’ lives can be saved. Since 2009, the Kupona community has raised over $3million for CCBRT’s comprehensive programs to identify, treat and prevent disability in Tanzania. Together, we are making motherhood safer for women in Tanzania, and giving newborns a healthy start in life.