Motherhood can be a positive and joy-filled experience, but for many women in poverty it’s often overshadowed by suffering, illness and even death.
For three years, we partnered with the government’s UK Aid scheme to fund the Different Path Appeal, enabling Compassion to launch 23 Survival projects across Togo. The aim was to improve pregnant women’s access to antenatal check-ups and trained birth attendants, offer life-saving assistance including basic healthcare, hygiene, nutritious food and safe water, as well as providing mentoring and support for families. Togo, a small country in West Africa, is facing immense challenges related to poverty. According to the World Bank, 55% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the country ranks 165th out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.
- Global maternal mortality rate: 223 per 100,000 live births
- Maternal mortality rate in Togo: 396 per 100,000 live births
- Global child mortality rate: 37 per 1,000 live births
- Child mortality rate in Togo: 63 per 1,000 live births
Here are some of the results from the programme:
- 2,339 mothers and babies were part of the project.
- 653 babies were born during the project timeframe.
- In the project 613 babies were born at full-term – 94%, compared with 88% nationally.
- In the project 633 were born in the presence of a trained medical professional – 97%, compared with 69% nationally.
- In the project 610 babies had a healthy birthweight – 93%, compared with 84% nationally.
- In the project 621 mothers exclusively breastfed for the first six months – 95%, compared with 64% nationally.
Adjowa enrolled at one of Compassion’s Survival Projects through her local church. Here she recalls the difference this support made during a time of intense need…
A time of fear and desperation
In the labour room, Adjowa pushed with the last of her energy. Her tiny baby was finally born, but the silence in the room was frightening.
“The baby’s not breathing,” the birth attendants said. Despite their immediate efforts to make the new-born react, no cry came. The baby was immediately transferred to a different part of the hospital—but without the funds to pay the medical fees, Adjowa felt desperate.
Struggling to survive
Adjowa had been just one month pregnant when her husband, Antoine, was involved in a car accident which left him seriously injured. Soon after, Adjowa’s workplace experienced financial difficulty due to the country’s food and economic crisis, and she was laid off from her job. The family suddenly had no income—and no prospects for earning.
Fearing they couldn’t support their two children, the couple made the heart-breaking decision to send them to live with relatives.
For Adjowa and Antoine, eating became a luxury they could only afford every three or four days. Unable to pay their rent, they were evicted. Antoine’s sister welcomed them into her already-crowded home; her family was also struggling, but they at least had enough for one daily meal.
“There was one day when Antoine and I didn’t eat at all,” says Adjowa. “But even though my sister-in-law brought us a meal the next day, Antoine still didn’t eat. Instead, he told me to save his portion so I would have something for the following day as we didn’t know when we’d next get food. Antoine didn’t eat for more than two days to provide for me, even though he was still suffering after the accident.”
During the first seven months of her pregnancy, Adjowa didn’t have a single prenatal consultation. Unable to afford medical care she feared the worst for herself and her baby. “I thought my life was doomed, and that neither of us would survive the pregnancy because I was so undernourished.”
Hope through the Different Path Appeal
Adjowa’s sister-in-law heard that a Compassion project at the local church was helping pregnant women and babies, so she encouraged Adjowa to find out more. After explaining her situation, Adjowa was registered with Compassion’s Survival Interventions.
“The first support I received was a food kit. I will never forget it. For the first time in months, we ate normally—we weren’t having to skip meals for days on end.”
Adjowa also received medical support, starting with a prenatal check. The project paid for all her medical fees and supplied her with clothes and hygiene items. “I didn’t expect them to be so supportive. They gave me hope,” she says.
But after receiving so much, Adjowa worried the project would grow tired of assisting her. So, when she went into labour, she kept it to herself and prepared to deliver the baby at home.
Thankfully, her sister-in-law realised Adjowa was in labour and informed the project staff, who immediately took Adjowa to hospital.
“I will never forget what they have done for us.”
As the midwives rushed Adjowa’s new-born daughter from the birthing suite to the main hospital for treatment, the exhausted mother followed. She was anxious for her baby’s life and fearful, because she simply couldn’t believe the project would cover any more costs on top of everything else she’d received.
But the project took care of every expense and baby Eyram’s life was saved by the quick treatment of hospital staff. “My daughter and I wouldn’t have made it if the Compassion project hadn’t helped. I’m certain we would both be dead.”
Two weeks later, mother and daughter were discharged from hospital in good health.
“I still can’t believe the project paid for all our medical expenses! I thought they’d be tired of me as I was always in need. I will never forget what they’ve done for us. The project staff and the other mothers in the programme have become like my family. I’m so grateful to have their support. I love meeting with them and watching our babies thrive.”
We’re grateful for the life-saving work this grant has helped to facilitate. We want to continue and expand the reach of our Child Survival projects, and so need to continue to raise vital funds. Can you help a mother and baby thrive, just like Adjowa and Eyram, through supporting our Child Survival Interventions?
This work has been made possible by the generous support of sponsors and donors and UK AID which matched public donations to the ‘Different Path’ appeal which enables Compassion to improve pregnant women’s access to antenatal check-ups and trained birth attendants, offer life-saving assistance including basic healthcare, hygiene, nutritious food and safe water, as well as providing mentoring, support and spiritual guidance for families.