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Background: Efforts to take forward universal health coverage require innovative approaches in fragile settings, which experience particularly acute human resource shortages and poor health indicators. For maternal and newborn health, it is important to innovate with new partnerships and roles for Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) to promote maternal health. We explore perspectives on programmes in Somaliland and Sierra Leone which link TBAs to health centres as part of a pathway to maternal health care. Our study aims to understand the perceptions of communities, stakeholder and TBAs themselves who have been trained in new roles to generate insights on strategies to engage with TBAs and to promote skilled birth attendance in fragile affected settings. Methods: A qualitative study was carried out in two chiefdoms in Bombali district in Sierra Leone and the Maroodi Jeex region of Somaliland. Purposively sampled participants consisted of key players from the Ministries of Health, programme implementers, trained TBAs and women who benefitted from the services of trained TBAs. Data was collected through key informants and in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Data was transcribed, translated and analyzed using the framework approach. For the purposes of this paper, a comparative analysis was undertaken reviewing similarities and differences across the two different contexts. Results: Analysis of multiple viewpoints reveal that with appropriate training and support it is possible to change TBAs practices so they support pregnant women in new ways (support and referral rather than delivery). Participants perceived that trained TBAs can utilize their embedded and trusted community relationships to interact effectively with their communities, help overcome barriers to acceptability, utilization and contribute to effective demand for maternal and newborn services and ultimately enhance utilization of skilled birth attendants. Trained TBAs appreciated cordial relationship at the health centres and feeling as part of the health system. Key challenges that emerged included the distance women needed to travel to reach health centers, appropriate remuneration of trained TBAs and strategies to sustain their work. Conclusion: Our findings highlight the possible gains of the new roles and approaches for trained TBAs through further integrating them into the formal health system. Their potential is arguably critically important in promoting universal health coverage in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS) where human resources are additionally constrained and maternal and newborn health care needs particularly acute.
Orya, E., Adaji, S., Pyone, T., Wurie, H., Van Den Broek, N., & Theobald, S. (2017). Strengthening close to community provision of maternal health services in fragile settings: An exploration of the changing roles of TBAs in Sierra Leone and Somaliland. BMC Health Services Research, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-017-2400-3