By: Armine Karabekian, USAID/Armenia
I have visited a number of health facilities during site visits, and I feel great pride when I hear of the positive impact of our assistance in improving health in rural communities, particularly mothers and children. The stories about rural nurses like Alina Hovhannisyan are especially touching. Alina is a community nurse in Haykavan village in Shirak province and a graduate of USAID/Armenia’s Safe Motherhood Clinical Skills training. The knowledge and skills she gained from the course enabled her to help a village woman deliver her baby when she was in premature labor, The nearest maternity hospital was 12 km away and there was no time to wait for the ambulance. There are many other children, like little Mariam born that day, that our programs and trainings help to promote a healthier future for Armenia.
Quality and accessible health care has been USAID’s long-standing priority in Armenia. In 2004, the Mission initiated Project NOVA to assist the Armenian Ministry of Health in their efforts to improve the quality of reproductive health, family planning, and maternal and child health services in the country. Through this project USAID assistance helped extend free primary health care (PHC) and maternity services by equipping and renovating two-thirds of Armenia’s neediest rural health facilities, as well as training 25% of Armenia’s PHC physicians. New systems of health care financing and monitoring were established such as the Open Enrollment system, whereby people choose their own health care provider (85%-90% of resident population are now enrolled). Quality Assurance and family medicine practices were introduced. The primary cause of maternal death in Armenia – post-partum hemorrhage rates – was reduced by over 60% from 5.4% in 2005 to 1.7% in participating facilities.
In January 2010, building on the accomplishments of this five year project, USAID launched the one-year Maternal and Child Health Improvement Project (NOVA 2) to follow on former activities in five southern regions and to expand assistance to five additional northern regions of Stepanavan, Akhuryan, Ijevan, Martuni, and Hrazdan.
NOVA 2 reached over 500,000 people in these ten regions and benefited 270 primary and secondary level facilities, supporting over 8,000 births.
Five Schools of Motherhood were added to the existing twelve set up by predecessor Project NOVA. These schools provide pregnant women with free counseling, physical and psychological instruction on childbirth, information on the delivery process, and a wealth of information on the importance of a healthy lifestyle during and after pregnancy. Future fathers are also encouraged to visit. Indicative of the Schools’ popularity and high demand, the number of women who attended the classes in project-supported regions increased from 12.8% to 59.7% in less than a year.
The project, which marked its completion this month, was implemented by a consortium of international organizations headed by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), in partnership with IntraHealth International and Save the Children, and in close collaboration with the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Health, regional health departments, healthcare facilities, Yerevan State Medical University, Erebuni State Medical College and select local NGOs.