Location: Georgetown, Region 4
Contributed by: RPCV Jackie Marzan – GUY 25
As Guyana has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the Caribbean, second only to Haiti, it is imperative to bolster efforts in this health sector. The Birthing Project USA aimed to build social support networks through the Sister Friend program to address the struggles pregnant Guyanese women face. Racism, poverty, lack of access to health services, gender, and social norms and unstable housing environments are all factors that affect the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.
The Birthing Project USA has successfully implemented the Sister Friend program, a national and global social support effort, into Malawian, Nigerian, Guatemalan and Ugandan communities. The Sister Friend program’s goal is to lower infant mortality rates through recruiting, training and supporting volunteers to deliver emotional, physical and financial support, as well as education and direction for pregnant women. Pregnant women from various communities strengthened relationships with other women in their communities and health professionals involved during their child’s birth. To implement this program into Guyana, the Birthing Project USA collaborated with Peace Corps Guyana to equip Peace Corps Volunteers with culturally sensitive and socially just training on how to utilize the Sister Friend model at their own assigned health centers, health posts or hospitals. Through the Birthing Project USA’s Sister Friend curriculum, PCVs were trained on the importance of social support during pregnancy, how the program can be implemented and how volunteers can train health center staff to provide emotional support, prenatal care and tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Increased emphasis on prenatal and postnatal care among health center staff ensured the best care for women attending the health centers. By building rapport between health center staff and pregnant participants, pregnant women are more likely to attend their pre and postnatal care appointments and entrust the health and safety of their babies with their midwife, nurses and nursing assistants.