September 28, 2022

Tech for Good – Ensuring safer childbirths at scale through a strong “GLOCAL” partnership 

Maternity Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have been working together since 2016, and the partnership has grown significantly over the years both in geographical and thematic scope.  Today, the partners are working together in more than 10 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and now have plans to expand their collaboration into North Africa, Middle East as well as into Latin America in 2023. 

For both parties, joining hands makes perfect sense. Maternity Foundation is the organisation behind the Safe Delivery App; a digital health solution that supports midwives in ensuring safer births for women and their newborns in low-resource settings. UNFPA is the United Nation’s sexual and reproductive health and rights agency that has improvement of maternal and newborn health as an essential priority. Together, the partners decided to make the Safe Delivery App and Programme available on a broader scale and thereby empower more midwives in providing quality maternal and newborn healthcare.  

The great thing about this partnership is how we are leveraging each other’s strengths and comparative advantages. UNFPA has vast outreach and can help institutionalize good educational content through its strong relationship with ministries, midwifery councils and educational institutions. Maternity Foundation on the other hand has all the technical know-how and dedicated technical experts,” says Geeta Lal, Senior Technical Advisor at UNFPA.  

A true “GLOCAL” partnership 

The partnership started at country level in Laos back in 2016 and has since expanded to more and more countries. Over time, the Maternity Foundation and UNFPA’s country offices gathered experience in terms of customising and integrating the Safe Delivery App into different national contexts, and their collaboration showed promising results. The collaboration was taken to the next level when the UNFPA’s headquarters signed a strategic partnership agreement with Maternity Foundation to expand the Safe Delivery App and Programme at a global scale.  

The partnership leverages on UNFPA’s global position, reach and strong technical expertise on one side and Maternity Foundation’s evidence based, cost-effective and customisable digital Safe Delivery App and Programme on the other.  

“The key to our partnership is that we have the best of both global and local; a strong digital health solution and global network on one side – and the ability to access strong country partners and then customise and integrate the solution into national contexts on the other, ” says Anna Frellsen, CEO at Maternity Foundation. She continues: “In addition to the strong synergies in our “glocal” model, our partnership is strong because it rests on mutual respect and common goals.” 

Working towards a common goal 

The common goal of the partnership is clear: The partners aim to address the huge gap in the quality of care for pregnant and laboring women and their newborns. The need to educate and train more midwives to international standards is crucial. We know that one woman dies during pregnancy or birth every second minute. We also know that one newborn suffers the same fate every sixth second. Most of these deaths happen in low-resource settings and the majority could have been prevented if the women had received quality care from a skilled healthcare worker.  However, only 20 % of the Sub-Saharan healthcare workers giving maternity care are fully trained. 

“Together with UNFPA, we are addressing the need for more and better trained midwives. UNFPA has been key in us reaching more than 300.000 healthcare workers across the world. And we are only getting started – for the needs and opportunities are far greater”, says Anna Frellsen.  

In scaling the Safe Delivery App, UNFPA has supported Maternity Foundation in producing several App versions and having the App translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.  

 “Our partnership is strong and becomes stronger each passing day. It is expanding rapidly in scope and the countries and regions are highly appreciative of the Safe Delivery App. With the new App versions and the additional languages, it has truly become global in scale,” Geeta Lal explains. 

Geeta Lal also notes that the encouraging feedback from the midwives and healthcare users of the Safe Delivery App.  

“What is most gratifying to know is that midwives themselves are seeing and feeling the difference the App is making on their clinical skills, competencies, and attitudes. They feel empowered and are genuinely grateful that we bring the latest world-class knowledge in such a useable format to them,” says Geeta Lal.  

Broadening the women’s health focus 

The focus of the Safe Delivery App is currently being broadened. During the Covid-19 pandemic, UNFPA supported Maternity Foundation in developing a new Covid-19 module and now, the parties are working on developing new modules on maternal mental health, family planning and safe abortion.  

The new App modules are highly needed. New trends indicate that the war in Ukraine and other conflicts and crises around the world are rolling back much of the progress made over the last many years to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health. UNFPA expects the current crisis to drive an increase in unintended pregnancies, as access to contraception is disrupted and sexual violence increases. 

“The current setback we are experiencing in women’s health is calling for strong partnerships. At Maternity Foundation, we are ready to play our part and plan to double our reach to 600,000 healthcare workers by 2025 with support from UNFPA and other strong partners. Together, we want to help empower women and families by helping to prevent unintended pregnancies, reducing the number of abortions and the number of women who suffer from complications during pregnancy and childbirth that lead to death and disability,” says Anna Frellsen.  

UNFPA is too looking forward to continuing the partnership with Maternity Foundation and believes the partnership has potential to grow much further:  

“We are learning from our experiences and want to develop new innovative programmes as we go along. I truly believe that, together, we can move mountains,” Geeta Lal says.