PAHO/WHO recognizes the role of birth attendants in displaced communities on the International Women's Day

Experience in Colombia won the V Best Practices Competition incorporating Gender Equality Perspective

Diocelina has forgotten how many children she has helped to bring into the world. She does not know about numbers but she perfectly understands about the signs of life and, with over 80 years, continues to ensure the welfare of many pregnant women in communities where medicine fails for several reasons. These communities have similar characteristics of poverty, marked ethnic differences and are often in the midst of an armed conflict that has affected them for decades.

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, celebrated every March 8, PAHO/WHO recognizes the work of these traditional birth attendants and awarded the prize of Best Practices that incorporate the Gender Perspective to the initiative "Safe Motherhood in the Pacific Cauca: way to a happy delivery"(Colombia). This initiative aims to train traditional birth assistants to identify protective factors and warning signs of the mother and newborn with the objective of reducing barriers to health services in displaced communities.

The most common reasons for choosing a traditional birth attendant instead of a doctor are related to the distances to reach the nearest health center, the lack of resources and the lack of medical staff in communities ravaged by violence or affected by a disaster. However, there are strong reasons that tip the scales in their favor: respect, affection and trust in the work of these women. This work has been strengthened by the constant exchange of knowledge and expertise with medical staff, nurses and health officials.

"Safe Motherhood in the Pacific Cauca: way to a happy delivery" is a joint effort of the Ministry of Health in Colombia, women's networks and the group of traditional birth attendants with the support of the Area on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief of PAHO/WHO, PAHO/WHO in Colombia and is made possible by funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO). This initiative has been also possible thanks to the support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) in the US Department, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Currently this work is being developed in other departments and municipalities in Colombia and has been requested by several UN agencies and health institutions to improve and strengthen safe motherhood through traditional birth attendants in displaced communities. Ensuring the sustainability of these initiatives, PAHO/WHO recognizes the impact that women leaders as Diocelina have on public health of communities affected by violence or emergencies.

More stories related to this initiative (in Spanish):

Toda una vida dando vida

Mujeres dadoras de vida en el pacifico colombiano