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Imagine if you or your partner were about to give birth, and you could not access any healthcare whatsoever for yourself or your baby?

This was a reality for mothers in western Kenya until 2013 when the Australian based charity, World Youth International’s Odede Community Health Centre, was opened. Before 2013, around 70% of women in Odede gave birth in unsafe conditions, under the supervision of untrained midwives or female relatives.

It was estimated that one in five women lost their lives due to birthing complications in this region.

To help break the cycle of poverty within impoverished communities, World Youth International identified women needed adequate access to healthcare to experience healthy pregnancies, and deliver healthy babies.

The need for a safe Health Centre with trained midwives and nurses was a necessity.

Since the Health Centre’s opening, maternal healthcare outcomes for women in the region have significantly improved. In the 2019/2020 financial year, 696 women received antenatal care, 170 received postnatal care, and 137 babies were delivered safely.

Recently World Youth International opened a new Maternal Health Centre at the facility, which is furthering the positive impact that the Health Centre is having on the community.

Maternal Health Centre. Photo courtesy WYI

This new facility means even more women in Kenya can access care and children can have the healthiest start to life as possible in already vulnerable circumstances. The Maternal Health Centre is situated adjacent to the Odede Community Health Centre and is currently staffed by two full time trained nurses. It will ensure women are progressing smoothly with their pregnancies and then receive support after giving birth as they embrace motherhood.

Last year, the Odede Community Health Centre was one of Kenya’s first medical facilities to roll out a childhood vaccine for malaria prevention.

With Malaria being one of the most prevalent health issues in many Kenyan villages, this vaccination program will have a long-term impact on these communities and take the country closer to eradicating Malaria.

Fred Mito, the Director of the Odede Community Health Centre, has seen the devastating impact the illness has had on his community.

“Malaria is the biggest disease to burden the community of Odede every day. It keeps recurring and affects all people across the ages and genders. The most vulnerable are the children and expectant mothers. It reduces the ability of families to work on their farms and produce food for their households. Children miss school quite often as they remain home, sick with Malaria,” said Fred.

“If malaria rates reduce, the families’ economic status would significantly improve, children’s school attendance would improve, and this would translate into a better future.”

Nurse Shakila from the Maternal Health Centre is confident that this vaccine is the best preventative measure against Malaria.

Nurses in Action volunteer. Photo courtesy WYI

“This vaccine is a much stronger preventative method than getting parents to use mosquito nets properly in their homes. This is surely the best way to protect children from the deadly Malaria. Hopefully, a vaccine can be developed to give to expectant mothers too,” said Shakila.

As a result of the pandemic, many health professionals recognise the extra help these vulnerable communities need and are keen to travel as soon as possible. Despite the current travel restrictions, World Youth International has continued to receive new applications for their Nurses in Action programs. When Australian nurses and midwives can travel internationally again, they will have the opportunity to spend time working alongside the local health professionals in the new Maternal Health Centre and assisting with the roll-out of the malaria vaccination program.

Kasia is an Australian Perioperative Nurse currently studying a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She recently applied for the Nurses in Action program.

“When deciding to pursue a career in nursing, my main reason was to give back and try to help in alleviating inequities locally and around the globe. Whilst studying, I saw an advertisement for the volunteer program,” she explained.

“If I could help in even the slightest way, especially now with the added stresses of the coronavirus, I definitely can’t deny that it would be a personally life-changing experience.”

If you’re also passionate about giving back and want to plan future trips, particularly when some of the communities World Youth International work within will need more support than ever, consider signing up in advance to the Nurses in Action program. The program will run again when travel restrictions ease. More information about the Nurses in Action program can be found here

About World Youth International
World Youth International is a registered charity which has facilitated meaningful volunteer opportunities for more than 3,800 Australians and provided access to basic services such as healthcare and education for more than 40,000 people across the globe. At the heart of all our work is a commitment to community-led, sustainable development projects, and a belief in the power of volunteers to create real impact. Our vision is to educate, empower and inspire positive change within the global community through the legacy of our founder, the late Robert Hoey.
World Youth International is committed to:
* Creating innovative and exciting opportunities for people to live life passionately and contribute to the global community; and
* Enhancing quality of life, strengthening communities and reducing poverty through sustainable development projects.
World Youth International is approved as an Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Recipient by the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Christian Marchetti is Marketing & Communications Intern at World Youth International