Greeting from Liberia where pregnancy is called Big Belly Business - and you become pregnant from Man Woman Business! I posted awful news yesterday about a Liberian hero who overcame Ebola only to die during childbirth. Today, only good news about how we are working to change that. For 5 years now Simply Put has led the creation of the Big Belly Business book and program. This week I’m in Liberia for a retreat that brought together our 18 NGO partner agencies representing over 183 trained Big Belly Sisters and Brothers who have run Big Belly Clubs to help thousands of pregnant women (and their husbands) learn to read, plan for their baby and support one another.
I have been out of range of internet until now… so I haven’t been able to share much. But this piece by Save the Children Liberia – one of our partners, is a pretty good introduction to what this program has done so far.
How Big Belly Clubs Help Mothers
and Fathers Become Better Parents in Liberia
SAVE THE CHILDREN Liberia: Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times for women in Liberia. The country has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world – 1072 out of 100,000. For comparison – it is only 7 out of 100,000 women in countries like Australia, where life-saving health care is more available to women. Surviving childbirth shouldn’t be a lottery, which is why improving maternal and child health is a priority for Save the Children in Liberia. Our strategy aims to support holistic service delivery of a maternal, newborn and reproductive health package. We also work to sensitise communities about the unique needs of pregnant women through the Big Belly Clubs, such as in Gaynamah Town, where Grace Teah lives with her husband and their 3 children. When the BBC was set up, Grace was pregnant with their 4th child. She attended meetings, alongside other pregnant and lactating mothers, and learnt learn about safe pregnancy, the stages of fetal development, nutrition and care of the newborn. They also discussed harmful traditional and social practices that negatively impact the health of women and children, thus contributing to the high maternal and newborn death rates.
In particular, Grace learnt that her husband’s physical abuse towards her greatly jeopardised her safe pregnancy. Violence against women is a huge problem in Liberia. Grace shared what she learnt with her family and her husband began attending the BBC meetings, too. Over time, he began to stop beating her, and started to show more concern and care towards her and their children. He also accompanied her when she visited the community clinic during her pregnancy. Thanks to the BBC, Grace paid regular antenatal visits until she gave birth. She then followed up and received postnatal, family planning and newborn immunisation services. Grace says, “I thank Save the Children and the donor for the Big Belly Club because it was through the knowledge gained from the Club that has helped my husband to stop beating me.” Likewise, the official at the community clinic says, “The Big Belly Club takes health information directly to the people. It has restored the confidence of the healthcare seekers, and changed their behaviour towards health care.” To date, we have set up and supported 20 Big Belly Clubs reaching over 500 pregnant and lactating women and their husbands, children, families and communities.