Every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. 94% of these deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries where many women and girls are unable to access adequate health services. In Egypt alone, more than 50,000 children under the age of five died in 2019, with an infant mortality rate of 17 deaths for every 1,000 births.
Save the Children works to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Johnson & Johnson and Save the Children have a long-standing history of supporting children and their families globally. Since 2020, with support from Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Save the Children and the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation have been working together to improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes in Alexandria, Egypt by training nurses and community health workers (CHWs) to provide quality and timely medical information, counseling, and maternal and child care. It also aims to increase the demand for family planning services among women of reproductive age.
Building capacity for better health outcomes
The Center and Save the Children’s work focuses on improving the capacity of the primary healthcare sector, aligned with Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population’s strategy and ownership of the nationwide training program for nurses and CHWs. The training aims to strengthen health service providers’ ability to communicate, educate and counsel communities in their care. So far, it has reached nearly 400 nurses and CHWs, equipping them with a better understanding of effective communication and its role in behavior management.
The training also provides refreshed information about reproductive health and family planning methods to allow CHWs to formulate correct and tailored health messages for their communities. Over 47,800 women have received maternal, child and family planning health awareness sessions delivered by trained CHWs.
Family planning: A right for every woman and every girl
Becoming pregnant too young is a key risk factor for complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Increasing access to modern contraception and quality maternal care, creating supportive healthcare systems and policies, and building supportive community environments for safer pregnancies could prevent one in three maternal deaths and one in five child deaths. It also helps improve the livelihoods of women and their families—by allowing women to safely space births and young girls to avoid pregnancy and stay in school.
Working with Egypt’s Health Education Department, Save the Children developed a national campaign with unified messaging to build community awareness about family planning. More than 14,000 information and communication materials covering topics including healthy nutrition and personal hygiene were printed and distributed to targeted primary healthcare units to support health education activities carried out by nurses and CHWs.
Adapting the response to meet the reality
When COVID-19 hit, Save the Children adapted its approach, channeling increased support to 40 existing primary health facilities that continued to operate during the pandemic. In addition to distributing medical and infection control supplies needed to respond to COVID-19, Save the Children provided technical training to more than 350 frontline unit and supervisory staff on COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures, facility management and supervision.
“The project has focused on different scopes including raising the capacity of frontline health workers, improving the capacity of primary healthcare units and providing information, education and communication materials and personal protective equipment to healthcare workers,” says Amal Hassan, Senior Health Officer, Save the Children Egypt Country Office. “In the coming year, Save the Children looks forward to continuing its work with the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation to build the capacity of the primary healthcare sector and enhance the quality of care received by mothers and their children.”