Tulane University has announced a $4.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for an initiative aimed at improving maternal and neonatal health in Kinshasa, the capital and largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The grant will provide funding for MOMENTUM, an initiative to provide training to nursing students working with first-time mothers and fathers in the areas of family planning, birth preparedness, newborn care, and gender-equitable attitudes. According to program director Anastasia Gage, a professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, nearly a third of young mothers in Kinshasa become pregnant again within a year of giving birth, some don’t recognize the signs of life-threatening complications during pregnancy, and many have limited access to health care.
Given that up to 60 percent of young, first-time mothers in Kinshasa are not married to or living with their baby’s father, the initiative also hopes to encourage a conversation about gender issues and social norms and encourage fathers to be more involved with their children. If successful in Kinshasa, the program could be implemented at nursing schools across the country.
"I think this is going to be a very innovative project, and I’m pleased that we have been given the opportunity to try this idea," said Gage, who is working closely with DRC government officials. "We’re doing all we can to make sure that we have positive health outcomes for mothers and babies."