The Access: - Infant and Maternal Health Programme, otherwise known as AIM Health, is a programme that aims to reduce the number of young children and women who die every year from preventable causes.
In 2013, 6.3 million children died before their 5th birthday. These children were not just statistics; they were sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Their deaths represent one of the most appalling tragedies of 2013, especially as most of their lives could have been saved. Neonatal complications accounted for 44% of these deaths and one third were caused by pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. They did not have to die. Using very simple and cost effective measures, we can prevent future deaths. This is what AIM Health is about.
AIM Health is a 5-year programme being implemented by World Vision Ireland in 5 African countries: Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Its goal is to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates by 20% during that time.
How are we doing this?
World Vision Ireland believes in helping communities to help themselves.
AIM Health provides local communities with the necessary skills to improve and manage their own health services. Over the course of this programme, over 2,000 Community Health Workers will be trained to deliver simple health messages, such as the importance of breastfeeding as well as simple nutritional advice, directly to the households in their communities.
Community groups are being trained to oversee the running of their health programmes and are also being mobilised to advocate together for important rights that they feel are being neglected, such as access to health centres, medicines and immunisation.
In Mutonguni, Kenya, presence of a Skilled Birth Attendant at deliveries increased from 54% in 2011 to 76% in 2014, while in North Rukiga in Uganda, it increased from 30% to 73% during the same period. This is really important given the high number (33%) of women across the world who scarily give birth in their homes without a Skilled Birth Attendant by their side.
So, thanks to the AIM Health Programme, more and more women are now in a situation where a trained medical professional is on hand to assist them should complications arise during the birth of their little boy or girl. This in turn helps to substantially reduce the number of infant and maternal deaths that occur.
This programme is funded by Irish Aid, the Irish government’s overseas development programme. The aim of Irish Aid’s programme is to reduce poverty and hunger, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the needs are greatest. By supporting long term development and providing humanitarian assistance in over eighty countries, on behalf of the Irish people, Irish Aid is helping to build better futures for some of the world’s poorest communities. World Vision Ireland is delighted to be partnering with Irish Aid on this project and we are grateful for their funding support.
The AIM Health Programme has adopted World Vision’s 7-11 strategy, which focuses on achieving improved health and nutrition outcomes for mothers and children under 2 years of age. The 7-11 strategy comprises 7 key interventions targeting the mother and 11 key interventions targeting the child. The health messages that the community health workers are bringing to the local households centre around these important interventions:
7 Interventions Targeting the Mother:
- Adequate diet
Tetanus toxoid immunisation
Malaria prevention, treatment access and intermittent preventive treatment
Birth preparedness and healthy timing and spacing of delivery
Access to maternal health services, including antenatal and postnatal care, prevention of maternal-to-child transmission and HIV/TB/STI screening
11 Interventions Targeting the Child:
Essential newborn care
Hand washing with soap
Appropriate complementary feeding: introduction of solid foods after 6 months, with variety and frequency
Vitamin A supplementation
Oral rehydration therapy/zinc: to combat dehydration from diarrhoea
Prevention and care seeking for malaria
Full immunisation for age
Prevention and care seeking for acute respiratory infection: to prevent the illness escalating to pneumonia
Why Infant and Maternal Health?
Studies have shown that the early years of a child’s life, particularly the first 1,000 days, have a huge impact on the rest of the child’s life, from physical growth to cognitive skills to an ability to work and contribute to the economy. The early years are also the years that a child is most vulnerable – annually over 1 million babies die on the day that they are born and another 2 million die within the first month of their lives. However, simple preventive measures can significantly reduce the number of children needlessly dying each year – measures like immunisations that we here in Ireland find readily available.
What’s more, the health of a child’s mother has been proven to be critically linked to the health of her child. For instance,
- if a pregnant woman is HIV+, there are huge risks that the virus will be transferred to her child during pregnancy, delivery or by breast-feeding;
- if a pregnant woman suffers from malaria, the risk of maternal death increases, thereby leading to the very real possibility of a motherless child fighting to survive in what is already a challenging environment.
Yet, simple interventions can make a dramatic difference – improving the health of the mother and as a result, improving the health and future development of her child.
Community Health Workers are men and women who want to make a difference in their local communities. They have volunteered to work in their communities delivering important health messages to the households in their area. While they are not paid, they are recognised by their national Ministries of Health as an important part of the health system. The AIM Health Programme is engaged in strengthening health systems by facilitating Timed and Targeted Counselling training programmes for the Community Health Workers. During this training the volunteers are trained in a Behaviour Change Communication methodology, which targets women and their key decision makers (e.g. husbands, mothers-in-law) to increase their knowledge and awareness of their health and nutritional needs.
Hello, my name is Josephine and I have been a Community Health Worker since 2009. I am 69 years old and I live in the Mutonguni ADP area in Kenya. When my neighbours selected me to be their Community Health Worker I decided to take on the role because I wanted to help improve the health of my family and my neighbours. I have already noticed a lot of change in my community since the AIM Health Programme began. I really like being a Community Health Worker as I am associated with many good things happening in my community.
Houleye Bassirou Sow
Bonjour, my name is Houleye and I am a Community Health Worker from the M’Bagne ADP area in Mauritania. I am 24 years old and I have been involved with the AIM Health Programme since it began in 2012. I didn’t hesitate for a single moment when I had the opportunity to volunteer to improve the health of my community! I am particularly proud of helping mothers to become aware of how to prevent diseases rather than simply curing them.
Hello, my name is Aminata and I am a Community Health Worker from Sherbro Island, an island off the south of Sierra Leone. I have been a Community Health Worker since the launch of the AIM Health Programme in 2012. Before this I volunteered with the Red Cross and because of this experience, my community nominated me to be trained as a Community Health Worker. I took on this role because the maternal and child health issues in my community are really alarming and I thought I might be able to do something to help.
Jambo! My name is Theresia and I am a Community Health Worker living in the Sanzawa ADP area in Tanzania. I have been involved with the AIM Health Programme since 2011 and I decided to get involved because of the challenges being faced by women and children in my community – whether this be malnutrition amongst young children or the number of women giving birth in their own homes without a skilled birth attendant to help them. I really wanted to make a difference!
Habari! My name is Labuan and I am a Community Health Worker from the Busitema ADP area in Eastern Uganda. I am 58 years old and I began working as a Community Health Worker with the AIM Health Programme in 2012. I have lived in the same village all of my life and I am married with 12 children – 5 boys and 7 girls! Because of this, it is probably not that surprising that I was nominated by my community to become a Community Health Worker.
What Else is the Programme Doing?
World Vision Ireland recognises the importance of operational research to gauge the success of work being completed in the field and also to learn from the implementation of a programme. Therefore, World Vision Ireland has selected the Centre for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin to be its academic partner in researching the AIM Health Programme. Important considerations within this research will include the programme’s impact on the health services in the selected countries as well as the expansion and scale up of the programme in the future. There are currently a number of research projects under way across the five programme countries.