A Bolivian NGO backed by church and other development groups has almost totally eradicated death-in-childbirth and significantly diminished infant mortality in one of the poorest regions of the country.
The pilot scheme in two districts in Potosi, Bolivia, has been so successful that the progressive Evo Morales government has pledged to roll it out across the whole country, says UK-based agency Christian Aid.
The organisation, Causananchispaj, reported that in the area where the pilot programme took place, 600 women died in childbirth per 100,000 in 2002. In the year 2004/2005 there was only one death and that was from pre-eclampsia, a very serious condition.
The scheme works by training local health workers to adopt the simple premise that women's views and feelings about their deliveries should be at the centre of their birthing plans.
Bolivia has a large indigenous population and these women previously often felt misunderstood by the medical establishment and were therefore reluctant to attend clinics.
But such simple measures as respecting cultural practices like giving birth in a kneeling position and allowing male partners to attend the birth gave women the confidence in the system to attend clinics. This meant that at-risk pregnancies were identified in time to treat them properly. Also, women who faced difficult deliveries were encouraged to have their babies in hospital.
Isabel Sardinas, one of the women who attended a clinic in the pilot scheme, said: "Before we hardly went to the doctor to be treated. Now we can go because they treat us as if we were in our own houses, also we can have our husbands and a midwife by our sides."
Causananchispaj, which means ‚Äòto be able to live‚Äô in Quechua, runs an integrated rural development programme including agriculture, water, health, education and community organisation with 21 rural communities in Potos??.