Until recently the northern Ghanaian district of East Mamprusi had the poorest maternal and child health indicators in the region. Most women gave birth at home, and while this may sound very trendy in our society, in theirs the reason was not a matter of choice, but for lack of transportation to a health facility. With home births there were no skilled supervisors to assist in deliveries. To make things more complicated, traditional beliefs and practices surrounding pregnancy and childbirth also often inhibited women and children from accessing good health care. For instance, in cases of complicated labor, a soothsayer would be consulted to pour libations in supplication to the spirits or ancestors, rather than seeking help from a health professional. After birth, one of the first things a child may ingest is a concoction made by the traditional healer, often made with contaminated water.
How did Catholic Relief Services turn the statistics upside down and make East Mamprusi the top performing district in maternal and child health? Effecting change of such deep-seated cultural practices cannot come by enacting laws or preaching from a pulpit. One of the ways CRS did this is by involving local opinion leaders– pastors, imams, village chiefs, and even traditional birth attendants and healers in the implementation of their project. Today, the EPPICS project (Encouraging Positive Practices for Improving Child Survival) is a model for implementing global health programs in complex cultural situations, and a lifesaver for mothers, and for the children, especially, who arrive in their wake. I shot and produced this video for CRS in the village of Jawani, in northern Ghana. Early morning shoots were fueled by plenty of banku and fufu.