Giving Tuesday: Cuso International’s Maternal Health Program

Guess which country is turning up as one of 2018’s hottest new travel destinations: Ethiopia.

Yup, that Ethiopia.

The African country, where for so many years famine was the only thing we heard about when its name was mentioned, is now poised as a tourism destination to watch in 2018.  In fact, National Geographic Traveler just listed it as a top place to visit in 2018.

It makes sense. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to local cooking classes, there are great reasons to go. And now that Ethiopian airlines’ is offering non-stop flights from Toronto to Addis Ababa, it’s even easier to get there.

All signs point to it as the next tourism hot spot.

So why mention Ethiopia on Giving Tuesday?

Because although the country is poised to do incredibly well, it isn’t quite out of the woods yet.

And one of the areas where that is most obvious is maternal health.

Giving Tuesday Cuso


Giving Tuesday: Midwifery in Ethiopia

More than 80 percent of women give birth without a skilled health worker in Ethiopia. That means the clear majority of mothers there have no help if they face complications before, during or after giving birth. The consequences can be tragic for both mother and baby; the country – despite significant improvement in health care over the years – still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa.

But that too can change.

For more than 55 years, Cuso International has sent Canadians to volunteer on life-changing projects around the world. One of the things that really separates Cuso International from most other charities in the development work space is that they work with local people, and focus on sending volunteers for specific projects. The result is a human-to-human opportunity that impacts both sides of the equation and makes a measurable difference.

While you may have last encountered Cuso International in the halls of your university or college, the fact is that volunteers range in age and ability. And through this maternal health program in Ethiopia, the organization is bringing skilled Canadian volunteers to the country. The result: Improved medical care and more informed health decisions.

What I like about the Cuso International approach, is that the goal isn’t to land in a country and take over. Quite the opposite. Cuso International volunteers approach each country with the goal of sharing their knowledge with doctors, nurses, staff and patients and empowering the locals to help themselves.


That white-jacketed lady in the video (and the photo above) is Jennica Rawstron, a Canadian mid-wife from Vancouver who has volunteered with the Cuso International Maternal Health program. In Ethiopia, she helped train her hospital counterparts. While the local midwives did most of the actual “baby catching,” Jennica attended at several deliveries to learn, assist and share practice information. In one of those first deliveries, the baby was turned upside down in the womb resulting in a breech birth. The baby died.

“It really had an impact on me because I’ve never had a stillbirth in Canada,” Rawstron says. “Breech deliveries are not common in Canada because most women in that situation would have a scheduled C-section.”

She’s right. My second child, Cameron was a breech baby and as a result was delivered by C-section. It was a routine delivery and he’s now a healthy, thriving teen. In Ethiopia that same set of circumstances would’ve led to a gamble. With only one nurse or midwife for well over 4,000 people in the country, compared to 1 for every 102 people here in Canada, it’s a very real concern.

It’s not hard to imagine the fear that must grip parents when they hear the news. For a mother or child to lose their life over a completely preventable birthing situation is heart wrenching to think about.

Giving Tuesday | How to help

Helping to improve lives in Ethiopia is easy. There are so many ways we can help and Giving Tuesday offers the perfect opportunity to start.

Pledge a monthly gift If you’re ready to keep that spirit of giving going beyond the holiday season, consider a monthly gift. Every dollar pledged to Cuso International has an impact that is ten times its value! Giving whatever you can means you are providing even more women and children with life-saving health care.

Pledge a one-time gift On this Giving Tuesday your contribution will go toward supporting Cuso International’s highest priority projects around the world, including this Maternal Health program that will improve health care for vulnerable moms and babies in Ethiopia.

This post was sponsored in part by Cuso International. As always, the opinions are my own.