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Saving lives of mothers and children in Nepal and Vietnam

In January 2020, the Gay Lea Foundation announced its support for Saving Lives of Mothers and Children in Nepal and Vietnam, a multi-pronged project coordinated by HealthBridge Foundation of Canada to strengthen health systems, improve nutrition and promote healthy families in hard-to-reach communities of Nepal and Vietnam. .

First initiated in 2016, the project focuses on working with local partners and governments in Banke District of Nepal and Son La Province of Vietnam to provide skills development, training and ongoing supportive supervision to improve the quality of facility- and community-based health services in these communities. The project also aims to strengthen knowledge of infant and maternal health and nutrition among community members including local men and women.

With the support of donors including Global Affairs Canada, the Unifor Social Justice Fund, the Peter Gilgan Foundation, Peterborough K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, Tenaquip Foundation and the Gay Lea Foundation, the project has achieved many successes over a four-year period, a number of which are highlighted below:


Banke District of Nepal

Maternal, newborn and child outcomes are very poor in this remote area of Nepal, where the mortality rate was 258 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, compared to seven deaths per 100,000 live births in Canada the same year.

Working with the International Nepal Fellowship and local stakeholders, HealthBridge has focused on six primary project activities in the Raptisonari and Narainapur Rural Municipalities of Banke District:

  1. Strengthening capacity of government and health system stakeholders to design, deliver and monitor high quality health services that are gender responsive and inclusive
  2. Remobilizing Mothers’ Group meetings, led by Female Community Health Volunteers, to raise awareness among local women about maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition
  3. Developing Husbands’ Groups to engage men and family members to address gender and cultural barriers to health
  4. Promoting breastfeeding and supporting home gardening
  5. Training skilled birth attendants to serve local communities
  6. Supporting local health facilities to improve equipment, infrastructure, and supplies


Key Achievements

Through its efforts in the Banke District, HealthBridge reports that the percentage of deliveries in a health facility with a skilled attendant has increased by eight per cent in the region, and that the proportion of women and newborns who receive post-natal care has improved by seven per cent. The proportion of men and family members who know three danger signs during pregnancy, the post-partum period, and of childhood illness has nearly doubled.

Significant improvements in health facilities have also been seen, in terms of infrastructure, infection control and equipment, and all health facilities in the project area now have 24/7 delivery care.


Son La Province, Vietnam

In the Son La Province of Vietnam, HealthBridge worked with ethnic minority communities, with primary project activities including:

  1. Building capacity of government and health system stakeholders to design, deliver and monitor high quality health services that are gender responsive, inclusive and high quality
  2. Training local women as Ethnic Minority Midwives to provide pregnancy, delivery and post-natal care to women and babies in remote communities
  3. Community education sessions and couples counselling on maternal, newborn and child health, breastfeeding and nutrition
  4. Building capacity at district hospitals in newborn care units
  5. Promoting breastfeeding and home gardening
  6. Engaging with men and family members to address gender and cultural barriers


Key Achievements

HealthBridge reports that the proportion of births taking place at a health facility has increased by 25 per cent in the Son La Province, while the percentage of women who gave birth at home assisted by a trained birth attendant has increased by seven times. The percentage of newborns receiving health checks within 24 hours of birth has nearly tripled, and nearly double the number of mothers has reported exclusively breastfeeding of their baby for six months.


The Impact of COVID-19

“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 health crisis, HealthBridge has continued to work on its mission of improving health and health equity throughout the world, especially among the world’s most vulnerable populations,” says Stephanie Wiafe, Communications and Engagement Officer, HealthBridge.

“The effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and responses to the outbreak, such as lock down measures that reduce access to health centers on vulnerable populations has highlighted the importance of our work in strengthening health systems and improving access to health services. With many of these populations still experiencing the devastation of COVID-19, we will continue our work in improving the health and well-being of all.”


View the full HealthBridge report Strengthening Health Systems and Improving Nutrition in Nepal and Vietnam at

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