UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program


Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: University Research Co., LLC
Location:
Asmara, Eritrea
Preceptor:
Waverly Rennie
Student Name: Larisa Mori
Year: 2005

From June 26, 2005 to August 31, 2005 I interned with the University Research Co., LLC (URC) in Asmara, Eritrea. URC was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under a Technical Assistance and Support Contract (TASC). Under supervision of Waverly Rennie, and in collaboration with a UNICEF consultant and a Michigan Population Fellow, I worked on three projects while in Eritrea.

The first project I became a part of was a pilot Integrated Community Health (ICH) program. The premise of this program was to encourage program sustainability and non-reliance on non-governmental organizations (NGOS) by using existing personnel and structures within the Eritrean Ministry of Health. Three sub-zobas were selected to participated in the program and local health personnel and village administrators (both already salaried by the government) were selected to be trained as trainers so they could go out into their respective communities and train community health workers in three areas: prevention and treatment of diarrhea, prevention and treatment of acute respiratory infections, and family planning/child spacing. I participated in two of the training sessions, at first as an observer and then as a facilitator and evaluator. This program encountered many obstacles to successful implementation at the community level since it added work to government employees without providing them with additional compensation. While ICH was a noble attempt at working with existing personnel, infrastructure, and resources it does not appear that this program will be expanded to other areas without the support of outside funding and leadership.

The second project that was handed to me involved conducting research and developing a transition plan for traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to slowly decrease the number of home deliveries they perform and instead utilize their connection with local communities to encourage pregnant women to seek skilled delivery care at a health facility. Options to use TBAs for community-based distribution (CBD) of contraceptives, iron-folate, and vitamin A were also explored through interviews with current TBAs and TBA trainers. In addition to researching the role TBAs actually play in Eritrea, I also conducted literature searches for similar transition plans in other developing countries and best practice report for increasing safe motherhood. In the end this project was cut short by the Eritrean government’s request that USAID halt all activities in the country, but I was able to sum up my finding in a working notes document that was submitted to the Ministry of Health.

The last major project I was involved with was the evaluation of community-based safe motherhood peer education program. I tried to meet with national and local level administrators to obtain background information on the program and then I developed questionnaires designed to elicit information regarding the current status of the program. I conducted site visits to four villages and interviewed program participants. Unfortunately I conducted my last interview on the final day of my internship and thus was only able to produce a short report documenting my findings.

I also had the opportunity to work on smaller projects, like producing client brochures and education material, field testing print material, and developing emergency management of obstetric care job aids. While many of my projects were cut short since USAID was ordered to halt activities, it was still a fulfilling and very educational internship.

 

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