$4.5 million grant aims to improve maternal, newborn survival in Ethiopia

By Jasmine Hoffman | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | June 19, 2012

Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership from Poul Olson.

Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing has received $4.5 million from the Micronutrient Initiative for a 4-year project designed to improve maternal and newborn survival rates in rural Ethiopia. The Micronutrient Initiative is an international non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the world´s most vulnerable—especially women and children in developing countries—get the vitamins and minerals they need for survival.

"This grant will help us develop sustainable approaches to improving care for pregnant women and the health of newborns in Ethiopia, where 22,000 women and 100,000 newborns die annually from complications from childbirth," says Emory School of Nursing Dean Linda McCauley.

Led by principal investigator Lynn Sibley, associate professor in the Emory School of Nursing and co-investigator Abebe Gebremariam Gobyzayehu, in partnership with the Micronutrient Initiative, the grant will work closely with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, Regional Health Bureau and District Health Offices to adapt a community-oriented strategy to improve maternal and newborn health in the Afar region of Ethiopia and position the approach to be adopted throughout the country. The approach integrates a maternal nutrition component into the Maternal and Newborn Health Partnership strategy currently being implemented in the Amhara and Oromia regions of the country.

The collaborators will strive to improve the capability and performance of frontline health care workers, including volunteers and traditional birth attendants, in providing targeted maternal and newborn services during pregnancy and around the time of birth. They also will work to increase the demand for those services and promote healthy self-care behaviors, including essential maternal nutrition.

"No woman should die giving birth knowing what we know today," says Sibley. "We’re grateful for this extraordinary grant from the Micronutrient Initiative, which will help us transform the way women and newborns receive essential care by using a community-based model." 

Ethiopia is a country of 82 million people, 83 percent of whom live in rural areas, and has the world's ninth-highest birth rate, according to reports from the World Health Organization. The lifetime risk of dying during childbirth is 1 in 27 in Ethiopia, and the infant mortality rate is 77 deaths per 1,000 live births. Ninety percent of births occur in the home, which makes a community-oriented approach to care essential.

Global health and engagement are among the core strategic commitments of the School of Nursing and Emory University overall. The school's Lillian Carter Center for Global Health & Social Responsibility develops programs to address the most pressing health challenges around the world. The School of Nursing's global health projects in maternal and child health, nursing education and HIV/AIDS care have included collaborations with sites in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Russia.

This grant supports a key academic focus area of Campaign Emory, the University's $1.6 billion fundraising endeavor.