Objective: We describe a collaboration between Save the Children USA, the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) program and the Ministry of Health of Mali, to improve the availability, quality and utilization of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) in Yanfolila and Bougouni rural districts in Sikasso Region of Mali.
Methods: Project planning, interventions and strategies between 2001 and 2004 were aimed at improving the capacity of 2 district hospitals to provide quality EmOC, sensitizing the community as partners to use services and to influence changes in policy at a national level through advocacy efforts.
Results: By the end of 2004, despite many health systems' challenges, the 2 hospitals were providing comprehensive EmOC. Providing 24-hour service proved difficult and, though not effectively institutionalized in the 2 hospitals, the UN Process Indicators showed modest improvements in quality and utilization of EmOC. Met need for EmOC increased from 9% in 2001 to 15% in 2004 in Bougouni and from 6% in 2001 to 15% in 2004 in Yanfolila. Case fatality rates declined by 69% (from 7% in 2001 to 2% in 2004) and by 38% (from 8% in 2001 to 5% in 2004) in Bougouni and Yanfolila, respectively.
Discussion: Although useful policy changes were achieved at the national level, more are needed if UN Guidelines are to be met. Availability of more obstetric functions at the community level, and fewer staff transfers are among policy changes needed.
Conclusion: Save the Children's project experience showed that it is possible to improve the quality and use of EmOC in hospitals despite challenges; we drew national attention to EmOC as a key strategy in maternal mortality reduction, and raised awareness of the need for improved EmOC services at clinics that are more accessible to the community.