MARACHA. The AVSI foundation, an Italian nongovernmental organization working in Maracha district has introduced an initiative employing motorcycle riders commonly known as bodabodas to transport expectant mothers to health facilities as a way of complementing ambulance services.

The residents are already appreciative of the initiative begun in August saying it has led to increase in the daily attendance of pregnant mothers at antenatal care and birth service points.

The programme covers all the sub counties of Maracha district, raising further hope that maternal mortality and infant deaths could be significantly reduced by the year end.

“As Maracha district, we lost eight mothers during deliveries in 2016. This number reduced to three mothers last financial year but the maternal and neonatal child health and nutrition program in which the bodabodas are key transporting participants will help to lower death rates further,” an optimistic district health officer Dr Paul Onzubo said.

According to Mr Francis Ojok technical advisor for AVSI in west Nile region, the program is implemented in four non refugee hosting districts of Maracha, Zombo, Pakwach and Nebbi which have poor maternal and child health (MCH) indicators due to limited support.

Mr Ojok said the Italian NGO is funded by the United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF) with close to sh400m grant to implement the program for at least five years.

“We found that planning, monitoring and implementation of MCH programs was not strengthened at district level, health workers had inadequate knowledge to provide MCH services and the communities had challenges in accessing care due to transport problems, ignorance and cultural issues,” Mr Ojok explained.

He said under community dialogue and health education programme the family connect component are also introduced to change the attitudes of the people.

In the family connect program, VHTs register phone numbers of expectant mothers or their relatives and sent it to ministry of health to receive messages on antenatal and postnatal services until after one year.

Dr Onzubo said close to 50% of the expectant mothers in the district used to deliver at home that is why two bodabodas are chosen per parish to transport them to health units.

“This is an intervention by Maracha district and it is only supported by development partners to collect mothers from homes as our ambulance systems collects emergencies of maternal nature from health units,” Dr Onzubo added.

The bodabodas who signed their first pay early this month pledged to observe the minimum requirement set by the district health department to maintain standards.

Others say the little money they get from the service will supplement their daily earnings obtained by carrying ordinary passengers to support their families with the basic needs.

Maracha is one of the districts in West Nile with the highest fertility rates necessitating such interventions to ensure safe deliveries.