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http://www.twitter.com/swampcottageIRIN is an award-winning humanitarian news and analysis service covering the parts of the world often under-reported, misunderstood or ignored. It delivers unique reporting from the frontlines of humanitarian action to over a million online readers. IRIN exists to make a difference. According to a 2008 survey by the global marketing research company ACNielsen, IRIN is the premier online humanitarian news source for people who describe themselves as having a "strong impact on humanitarian issues". Its reports are used directly in planning, advocacy and policy development. The survey also found that when it comes to keeping abreast of humanitarian news and issues, IRIN’s coverage was preferred to its closest rival, BBC Online, by a ratio of 4 to 1. IRIN – standing for Integrated Regional Information Networks – has its head office in Nairobi, Kenya, with regional desks in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dakar, Dubai and Bangkok, covering some 70 countries. The bureaus are supported by a network of local correspondents, an increasing rarity in mainstream newsgathering today. The service is delivered in English, French, and Arabic, through a free email subscription service, and social media syndication. IRIN was launched in 1995, in response to the gap in humanitarian reporting exposed by the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath. It is an editorially independent, non-profit project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments and other institutions. IRIN helps make a difference in three key ways: ▪ Humanitarian decision-makers better allocate resources ▪ Relief workers are better informed ▪ Media and the general public become aware and engaged The IRIN audience can be split into three main professional groups: just over half are in the humanitarian sector, followed by academia – think-tanks and researchers – and finally the media, which typically use IRIN as reference. At its core, IRIN’s coverage is about how people’s lives and livelihoods can be better protected. That means providing sustained rather than parachute reporting, informed analysis, and a voice for? those at the sharp end of circumstance. As the news service of the aid industry, IRIN operates like a regular news operation, but with the advantage of privileged access. That gives a unique close-up perspective on the humanitarian enterprise, on-the-ground reporting on crisis and vulnerability, and early warning on brewing emergencies. IRIN’s editorial team bring a huge range of experience, diversity and multimedia skills to bear – with a product range that spans text, film, radio, photography and hard-copy publications. The global text service produces over 400 reports a month, with correspondents in crisis spots from Afghanistan to Somalia. IRIN also has dedicated coverage of climate change and food security, and a specialist HIV/AIDS service, PlusNews. The film unit, with numerous awards already under its belt, has been named a Webby honoree in recognition of its excellence. IRIN’s Somali radio station, without fanfare, has for the past two years broadcast on short-wave into the country. A 2009 listeners’ survey found that 71% of those polled across Somalia – in both urban and rural settings – tuned in daily. IRIN is a remarkable success which, with strong donor support, has defined and successfully occupied a unique niche. By listening to its readers, it continues to evolve and contribute to better-informed and more effective humanitarian action.

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Hammocks make a difference to maternal health

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 7:45 a.m.
  • = Responses

Hammocks are helping an increasing number of women in the remote mountains of Ifugao, a province in the northern Philippines, reach hospital to give birth.

The ayod, an improvised hammock, is an indigenous tradition used to transport the sick and elderly through mountainous terrain. A formalized ayod initiative, the Ayod Community Health Teams (ACHT), is helping an increasing number of rural women deliver their babies in health centres.

"The ayod has always been there, but now, institutionalized as a community effort, it has mitigated the two factors that greatly affect maternal health, namely: the decision to seek care and the means of transportation to get it," said Hector Follosco, a provincial programme officer for UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ifugao.

According to 2006 figures released by the National Statistical Coordination Board, Ifugao has a maternal mortality ratio of 260 per 100,000 live births, far above the national average of 162 per 100,000. The National Demographic Health Survey of 2008, the most recent, reported 70 percent of births in rural areas of the Philippines take place at home.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which supported the ACHT project in 2008 and other maternal health initiatives starting in 2006 in three Ifugao municipalities - Alfonso Lista, Aguinaldo and Mayoyao - reported the number of deliveries in these birthing facilities increased from 17 percent in 2006 to more than 34 percent now.

"Solid community efforts have made facility-based deliveries the norm, rather than the exception. And we are seeing the results of that," said Nobuko Yamagishi, JICA health programme coordinator.

"Foot ambulance"

Often referred to within the community as an ambulance on foot, the ayod is carried by male relatives and accompanied by others - relatives or neighbours - who carry food and water and take turns when the carriers need to rest.

Its use became official under a provincial order passed in 2008, together with a national mandate requiring all pregnant women to go to a health centre for pre-natal care.

The order established the ACHT, tasked with monitoring and tracking the health of pregnant women in their community. The volunteers become part of a birth plan, and are on call for emergencies, including trips to the nearest hospital via hammock.

Ifugao ACHT, now managed by local government, has 185 teams and an estimated 2,865 members.

"We have a record of the pregnant women in our village, monitor their progress and remind them about getting their monthly pre-natal exams," said Albert Dangpahon, captain of Boliwong, a village in Ifugao. Under the mandate, such village captains are part of the ACHT.

"It is tiring and it makes us all very anxious when a pregnant woman is in labour, but it is also very fulfilling," said Dangpahon who, along with companions, has carried numerous pregnant women in a hammock, sometimes for eight hours, to the nearest health facility.

Slow but sure progress

At first, mothers accustomed to the tradition of home deliveries were sceptical.

"Mothers were still hesitant to give birth at the birthing health centres because it was too far and there was no way to get them there. They thought they would be better off delivering at home under the care of a traditional birth attendant who can also cook and clean for them. At home, their husbands would also be near them," Mary Josephine Dulawan, a provincial health officer, told IRIN in Ifugao.

To address that, the ACHT launched community awareness campaigns on the importance of birth facility deliveries. Such campaigns have helped young mothers like Auri, who preferred to go by one name, decide to give birth in a healthcare facility, rather than at home. "It's better in the centre. It is clean and they take care of you and your baby," the 21-year-old said.

Elsa Palang, a mid-wife in the Boliwong birthing health centre, delivered Auri's baby.

"There are more and more women giving birth at the birthing health centre," Palang said. "Before, giving birth in a hospital or birthing health centre was out of the question because the travel was too long and it would be expensive. But now, there is the ayod."

The women do not pay for being carried on the ayod, but often give food to the carriers.

From irinnews.org

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