Reducing maternal deaths in Cameroon

Picture: Eukeria Bih Ghah with one of her patients at the Health and Social Welfare Centre.

Preventing women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth in Cameroon is a major, long-standing challenge and one the United Nations has flagged.

For Eukeria Bih Ghah, an Australia Awards alumna with a Master’s of Nursing from the Curtin University of Technology, investing in quality and affordable reproductive health services is a must if Cameroonians are to reduce maternal deaths.

Eukeria is the only nurse in her region with a Master’s Degree. She is using her new skills in her role as Head Nurse at the Health and Social Welfare Centre, and a lecturer at the University of Maroua, to improve reproductive health services in every way she can, including by sharing contemporary evidence-based data.

After studying in Australia, Eukeria returned home to train junior colleagues on new reproductive health care approaches. She also worked with the Centre’s Reproductive Health Care Unit, to expand its contraceptive approaches beyond barrier methods and injectables. Backed by her Australian expertise, Eukeria can share knowledge on other methods such as implants and intrauterine devices.

“My studies in Australia empowered me to use evidence-based knowledge and increased my ability to approach various issues,” says Eukeria. The soft skills and leadership training she obtained in Australia have strengthened her abilities as a supervising nurse.

Beyond contraception, Eukeria has also been able to share her expertise on improved approaches in providing antenatal care and engaging pregnant mothers for better childbirth preparation. As a result, the Centre now closely follows up with mothers throughout their pregnancies to decrease maternal deaths.

Education and knowledge sharing are at the heart of Eukeria’s work. This includes as a lecturer in the fundamentals of nursing at the Department of Medical and Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, University of Maroua. It also includes collaborative work with the United Nations Population Fund, through the Regional Delegation of Health, to facilitate refresher training to implement new approaches and transfer skills to stakeholders. As a result, material on reproductive health care and services has been in constant supply, and at no additional cost.

Eukeria also trains health practitioners on how an effective reproductive health care unit should run, how to improve family planning and how to follow up with patients during pregnancies to reduce the risk of maternal and infant mortality.

A major success resulting from Eukeria’s efforts was the expansion of the reproductive health care unit to include the Listening Unit. This unit caters to youth in the community and responds to issues such as pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, drugs, alcohol, smoking, rape, gender-based violence, and sexuality.

Not only has Eukeria broadened her scope of practice in the consultation and management of mother and child health-related ailments, she has also implemented holistic interventions such as outreach programs for youth and pregnant mothers. As a result, mothers coming to the Centre are in better health. Indeed, the Centre now has 4374 clients benefiting from its improved services.

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