The corona pandemic is making the work of the BBM more difficult. At present, trips to Africa are hardly conceivable. But the team found ways and means to advance its projects nevertheless. For example in Ethiopia, where the Bushulo hospital is being converted into a mother and child speciality centre. This is a big step towards curbing the rampant maternal and child mortality. In Ethiopia today, 353 women still die for every 100,000 live births.
For comparison: In Austria, there are four deaths per 100,000 births. The mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is equally alarming. In Austria, 3.6 in every one thousand children die before their 5th birthday. This is tragic enough for those affected. In Ethiopia, however, no less than 55 out of every thousand children died in 2018. That is five percent. The situation in the country, which is still plagued by poverty, is extremely precarious.
Missing early detection
The reasons for this untenable situation are largely known. Many women have no possibility to reach a clinic in time. They often have to walk up to 45 kilometres to the nearest health centre. In addition, there is often a lack of medical equipment. Life-threatening complications are therefore not recognized in time – with fatal consequences for mothers and babies.
Severe consequential damage, for example due to lack of oxygen at birth, often cannot be avoided. Caritas Vorarlberg and its local partner, Caritas Awassa, support the Bushulo hospital with the BBM: A hospital for mothers and children. The aim is to increase the chances of survival for children and mothers and improve their health. The hospital was founded in 1979 by the Catholic diocese of Awassa and is currently being converted into a mother-and-child speciality centre – a pioneering project for the entire region. A wide range of medical care will be offered in the new centre:
Pregnancy care including HIV clarification, professional obstetrics, care of infants and small children (vaccinations, preventive medical check-ups, programmes against malnutrition), outpatient and inpatient care for tuberculosis and malaria. In addition, there are training courses for mothers in which practical life skills are taught: about the importance of clean water, about hygiene issues and about a balanced diet for children.
High quality equipment
Caritas called on the BBM for technical support in planning the hospital. Many quality criteria had to be taken into account while keeping costs within a narrow framework. It made sense for the BBM to be involved right from the planning stage. In the discussion between those responsible and experts, the best possible solutions were found together.
Subsequently, the BBM supported the tendering and contracting process and took over the subsequent construction supervision. This involved cooperation with a planning team from the company Rostwa in Uganda. Then the technological core components had to be delivered. For this, BBM has a whole list of criteria that influence the purchase decisions.
For example: Are maintenance and repairs possible locally? Can the project partner afford operation and maintenance? Will spare parts be available long enough? Will the components withstand the extreme local conditions (rain, humidity and drought) and external influences (e.g. termites)? Is the technology ecologically sustainable? Are costs and benefits in a reasonable relation?
A central task is to ensure an uninterrupted energy supply for the new mother and child hospital through solar power and powerful lithium batteries. A separate power supply appears to be absolutely necessary, because power failures in the public grid are on the daily agenda. The BBM also supplied the following components:
- Air conditioning for the operating rooms,
- a medical gas production plant,
- a laundry,
- equipment for a central disinfection department
- and various medical devices.
The components will be installed by a local team, which will receive assistance from international experts and volunteers as needed. It is particularly important to pass on knowledge and know-how to local experts, who will take over responsibility for the operation over time.
Support from a distance
In Bushulo, as in other projects, BBM does everything possible to ensure high quality without exceeding cost and time frames. The hospital should live up to the claim of being a pilot project and offer optimal health care. However, the technological complexity should remain manageable. Through COVID-19, the BBM technicians have to supervise the project from a distance without being able to be present themselves – a particular challenge for all those involved. Despite Corona, the shell of the new hospital has already been completed; work is currently underway on power and water lines. Completion is scheduled for March 2021. The hospital will then be the first and only specialist centre for mother-child health in the whole of southern Ethiopia. It will provide highly professional medical care in the fields of obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics.