Village Earth

The Audacity of Hope Made Real: Clean Birth Kits for the People of Burundi



By William M. Timpson – Director Amahoro Project

In rural Southern India, three million women live in poverty and lack access to a clean birth environment. Each year in India, 78,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth and about one million neonatal deaths occur due to complications resulting from infection. To combat this problem, the social venture AYZH distributes clean birth kits called JANMA that cost just $2 each and can dramatically reduce fatal childbirth infection. These kits are sourced and assembled in India by rural women and are composed of quality, low-cost components. These kits have now been brought to Burundi, East Africa and introduced at the University of Ngozi. In April, alumna Zubaida Bai, founder and CEO of AYZH (pronounced ‘eyes’), accepted an award on behalf of her company at the 8th Annual World Health Care Congress and WHCC Affordable Health Innovations Global Initiative Exhibit in Washington, D.C. The company distributes JANMA through an established network of local pharmacies, clinics, non-governmental organizations, and local women’s self-help groups. By setting up supply chains for local manufacturing, costs are kept low and economic opportunities are created for women in the communities they serve. Most importantly, the JANMA provide mothers a safe, clean, and hygienic delivery whether she delivers at home, at a primary health care center, or in a government hospital. The rate of maternal and infant mortality in Burundi during home deliveries is a real problem although government officials are hesitant to be very public about the exact numbers. AYZH conducts extensive market research to assess consumer demand and then tests technologies on their affordability, appropriateness, and aesthetics to meet that demand. In addition to the JANMA birth kits, AYZH also is working to provide household water filters (called Sheba Filters) that provide high-quality drinking water at an affordable cost. “We use a tiered approach to first address women’s basic needs. The idea is to get women and their families healthy so they have the time and strength to work. We then provide them with income generating tools to help increase their livelihood. With a healthier family and more lucrative opportunities, the women can attain a level of self-sufficiency that translates into a more vibrant society,” said Bai. AYZH’s management is an international team passionate about making the lives of poor women better through technology and entrepreneurship. In addition to Bai, the management team at AYZH consists of alumni Habib Anwar and Kellen McMartin. All three founders of the company earned a Master’s degree in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise from CSU’s College of Business. Hopefully this innovative idea will take hold in Burundi. Introducing the Clean Birth Kits in the region of Ngozi makes sense since this area was a refuge when the ethnic killings were happening everywhere else in Burundi for the forty years that followed independence in 1962, beginning with the genocide of 1972 through the civil wars that erupted in the 1990’s. In Ngozi, however, Hutu and Tutsi leaders maintained the calm. They went further and created the first private university in Burundi in the wake of all that violence and dedicated to promoting peace and reconciliation. The audacity of hope made real. Accordingly, the University of Ngozi now serves as a base for curriculum reform and innovation. One such idea is this Clean Birth Kit. Introduced in the summer of 2013, staff at the University of Ngozi are exploring its use through the medical and health sciences programs. William M. Timpson is a professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University and the author of several books on peace, reconciliation, diversity, and sustainability. He has served as Fulbright Specialist in Peace and Reconciliation Studies in Northern Ireland and Burundi, East Africa.

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