Safe motherhood program

In Bangladesh, maternal and infant mortality rates are tragically high and rural communities have  limited access to basic healthcare and education. The Safe Motherhood program is helping to turn this around.

A women's meeting in Bangladesh

About the program

Up to 85 percent of Bangladeshi women will give birth at home without the assistance of a trained birthing attendant, and yet few have the knowledge to ensure the protection of their own health or the health of their child.

Since 2008, Caritas Australia has been working in partnership with Caritas Bangladesh to deliver the Safe Motherhood Program, a program designed to provide healthcare and health education to women and children in the Pallabi, Mirpur District of Dhaka.

The program trains rural midwives to provide quality antenatal, delivery and postnatal care for women in rural areas, with the aim or reducing the rate of maternal and infant mortality and increasing extended families’ participation in maternal and infant care. 

A mother and child in Bangladesh

For the two years from January 2008 to December 2010, the Safe Motherhood program helped thousands of pregnant women and new mothers in rural Bangladesh. With your support, we:

  • trained local midwives to identify if women are at risk during delivery. 3,540 deliveries were conducted with 280 women referred to hospital;
  • provided 7,133 prenatal checkups; and
  • provided postnatal care to 5,023 mothers and their infants.

By training midwifes in safe delivery and care, enhancing connectivity between remote communities and maternal healthcare, and  encouraging women to breastfeed and immunise their infants, this  program has reduced maternal and infant mortality – within its jurisdiction – by almost 70 percent.

In Bangladesh as a whole, 155 out of every 3,540 children born will unfortunately not survive the birth. But, in the rural communities served by the Safe Motherhood Program, only 5 infant deaths have occurred out of the 3,540 live births assisted by the project-trained midwives. The infant mortality rate within the project is 66 percent lower than in Australia.

As more midwives are trained, more lives can be saved with less need for funding. As well, Bangladeshi rural and village natal care can become self-sustaining over time.

Monju Adhikary is a qualified rural midwife. She has been trained through the Safe Motherhood program and has delivered more than 400 babies. The people of seven villages call her “Doctor Apa” (Sister). Thanks to the program, Monju has been able to help her sons continue their studies, build a house with a separate kitchen, and install a tube well for safe water supply. The program has not only helped build a better life for her family, but has provided her community with the invaluable gift of quality healthcare.

Monju says: "The Safe Motherhood program has already saved the lives of mothers and children. Through the care given by the midwives trained under the project there has been awareness-raising among the local communities of the rights and needs of pregnant women and their infants – along with gradual empowerment of the midwives and the women they work with.

"There are still poor, isolated communities who lack trained midwives and correct information on mother-child health. For this reason, we hope that Caritas Australia will continue to make it possible for this program to continue helping women and children achieve their right to survive pregnancy/delivery and to lead healthy lives.”

Salma's storySalma and her daughter Maya.
Find out about how this program has helped Salma, 18, who lives with her husband, Masud in Bangladesh. Early in her pregnancy with her first child, Salma experienced abdominal pain, couldn’t eat and was very sick. Worried about the advice she received from her local traditional birth attendant, Salma sought help from a rural midwife trained through the Safe Motherhood program.

With the program's help, Salma gained a peace of mind so often absent from births in rural areas of Bangladesh. Read more about Salma's story »

Program details

  • Issues: Women and development; Health
  • Partner Agency: Caritas Bangladesh
  • Funding in 2014/15 financial year: AU $55,000
  • Geographic location: Hill Tract district, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Moulvibazzar and other Adivasi areas
  • When established: 2008