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Transforming Lives in Rural Ghana: Portable Ultrasound for Mothers and Children

Thank you for taking the time to learn about the life-saving ultrasound program taking place in the Adaklu District in the Volta Region of Ghana. Sponsored and organized by the Give Right Foundation, our focus in rural communities in Adaklu District is to improve maternal and child health.

For a positive pregnancy outcome, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every pregnant woman has at least two sonographies. These should occur before 12 weeks to confirm pregnancy and after 28 weeks to identify any medical condition that needs sonography during pregnancy. 

The Adaklu District is populated with mostly rural dwellers who survive on small-holder farming, animal rearing, and hunting. The over 86,649 residents according to 2021 population census, rely on 18 health facilities in the district. With a birth rate of 39.7%, only one of the facilities provides ultrasound services, making it difficult for pregnant women to access complete care services.

The absence of an ultrasound scan machine in health centers prevents a sizable number of mothers from receiving prompt and accurate diagnoses during their pregnancies. As a result, treatment is delayed or not even possible leading to death of mother or the unborn child.

In many cases, a pregnant woman must travel many kilometers outside the district to access ultrasound services. This can be extremely time-consuming, creating unnecessary financial burdens on families. In addition, all day travel over bumpy terrain poses severe threats to the health of the mother and unborn baby. These challenges defeat the targets of Universal Health Coverage under Sustainable Development Goal 3, ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial or physical hardships.

To enable pregnant women and girls to have access to ultrasound services without being referred out of the community or district, The Give Right Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of Adaklu (a local nonprofit organization) conducted an obstetrics ultrasound training for midwives and nurses in the EP Mimi Health Center in the Adaklu District in January 2024.

Seven midwives and five nurses were trained in the areas of number of gestations, fetal viability, placentation (previa), estimation of delivery date, and recognition of fetal structures such as gender and orientation.

The Give Right Foundation donated a butterfly handheld ultrasound device to the EP Mimi Health Center. The portable device isa new technology that makes it easier to provide ultrasound scan services for pregnant women. Now they can stay on top of the progress of their unborn babies. The ultrasound device is used with a tablet, which serves as a display screen for ultrasound images.

Joy News TV Report on the Ultrasound Pilot Training in Adaklu:

Frederik Heath, a Co-Founder of Give Right Foundation and President of the Ultrasound Student Association at University of California-Irvine, highlighted the importance of ultrasounds. Frederik noted that the training program and the gift of the portable handheld Butterfly ultrasound device served the most important need of the district, as posited by the residents.

Mr. Heath is a final year MD/MBA student at the University of California -Irvine School of Medicine. He said that the device would ultimately change the healthcare delivery narrative of the district because it would guide women during their pregnancy journeys and help give them the best of care.

Frederik noted that,

The benefit of the project is that for the first time, these thousands of women can receive complete prenatal care and know when their baby is coming, know if the baby is a boy or girl, know if the baby is still alive. Most importantly for health outcomes, we have also trained the midwives to be able to detect placenta previa which is a life-threatening condition for both the mother and the baby.

Mr. Heath added that if the conditions are identified early, the mother and the baby would be saved through a cesarean section, within the earliest possible time.

A Co-Founder and President of the Give Right Foundation, Jean-Paul Sewavi, shared how passionate he was about the project, which seeks to make childbirth a lot easier and more convenient for women in rural areas.

He added that the project was of “personal significance” to him as he lost his mother due to pregnancy complications at a very young age in his home community in the   Republic of Togo.

“This ultrasound project of the Give Right Foundation has a very personal significance for me because my mother passed away when I was 3 years old. She gave birth to my brother and passed away and my brother also passed away after a couple of hours”.

“I don’t know my mother. When I was growing up, I decided to inquire what happened to her and no one seems to know what killed her. But now I am realizing that if we had had a device like this available and accessible for the rural community, it may have saved my mother’s life,” he said.

It was all joy when some pregnant women who had the opportunity to receive scan services during the training saw the images of their children, their sex, and their date of delivery for the first time.

Ultrasound Video

To enhance service delivery, a gynecologist at Fountain Medical Services, Dr Wilson Agbavor will help with the interpretation of every scan taken with the Butterfly handheld ultrasound device. A Consultant Sonographer and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, UHAS, Swallah Alhaji Suraka will also work with the health workers at EP Mimi Health Center to build their capacity.

The Country Director of Friends of Adaklu, Madam Stella Kudah, assured all stakeholders that, her outfit will continue to partner with Give Right Foundation to expand Ultrasound services within the health facilities in Adaklu District and beyond. The team also educated community members on the introduction of Butterfly handheld ultrasound device services and the need for pregnant women to access antenatal care.

 The Butterfly handheld ultrasound device comes as a game changer, with residents hoping it could be extended to other health facilities in the Adaklu District and throughout the Volta Region.

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