Photos from the Field

Maternal-Infant Health in Nicaragua

Meet Maria and Madelina. Maria is 34 years old and expecting her fourth child. Madelina, 20 years old, is expecting her second. Because of her approaching due date, Maria took a one-hour taxi ride to arrive at this Casa Materna (Maternal Home) where she can stay and have access to medical care. Madelina, due to give birth in September, had recently suffered some health complications. To avoid losing her baby, she made the two-hour journey by bus to seek proper infant healthcare.

With the cooperation of the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization, Global Links is working to improve the quality of healthcare for women like Maria and Madelina.

Nicaragua has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in Central America. 70% of the country’s maternal mortalities occur in rural areas, which is partially attributed to the fact that 55% of rural Nicaraguan women give birth at home without any medical assistance.

To combat the risks associated with at-home births, the Ministry of Health established the Casa Materna project. The purpose of these Casas Maternas is to give women a safe, comfortable place to receive food and healthcare in the days before and after giving birth. With over 170 Casas Maternas throughout the country, the project aims to encourage a safer, more educated birth experience.

Even with dedicated staff, the challenges faced by the Casas Maternas can be enough to hinder their progress. Often, women staying in the homes travel far distances on rural roads to receive medical care. Due to limitations in terms of resources, women must then be transferred to the closest health center or hospital - which can be up to a kilometer away - to receive complete medical care. These centers and hospitals also operate with limitations in terms of proper equipment and supplies.

For these reasons, Global Links developed and implemented the Maternal-Infant Health and Nutrition Program in Nicaragua. On our most recent trip this March, we set out to both evaluate the impact of the program on institutions that already received donations and to also assess the needs of potential recipients.

As a part of this program, Global Links is improving the quality of care for pregnant women by equipping each Casa Materna with a full exam room, including a gynecological exam table, a medical exam lamp, a desk and chair for the doctor, a fetal doppler, and assorted medical supplies. Thanks to our partnership with Computer Reach, we also provide a computer to improve data collection.

Because our program is designed to benefit the public health system, our work reaches beyond the Casas Maternas and also strengthens their reference institutions to create a more sustainable impact. This means equipping health centers and primary hospitals with the necessary furniture, basic equipment, and supplies to provide maternal-infant healthcare of the highest quality possible.

To incorporate the theme of nutrition into our project, we’ve also partnered with Rise Against Hunger. Through this partnership, we’re able to provide the Casas Maternas with packaged meals of rice fortified with micronutrients to combat malnutrition and promote the health of the mother and her baby. Mildred Yelince, a nurse and administrator at Casa Materna Villanueva, is pictured here displaying her creativity in the recipes she’s created using the fortified rice.

With the continued cooperation of the Ministry of Health, PAHO, and our other partners, we’ll move forward in strengthening the Casas Maternas and healthcare institutions that make up Nicaragua’s maternal-infant health network.