On April 4th-5th, our counterpart organizations Mano a Mano Bolivia and Mano a Mano Internacional, in collaboration with the Bolivian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology – Cochabamba and the Hospital Materno Infantil German Urquidi, delivered a two-day workshop on “Zero Maternal Deaths due to Hemorrhage.”

Training physicians to use Bakri balloons to stop post-partum hemorrhage

The workshop, attended by 45 physicians from hospitals throughout Bolivia, focused on use of the Bakri balloon, a medical device that is commonly used in developed countries to stop post-partum hemorrhaging but is rarely available in Bolivia. It also included sessions on obstetric hemorrhages in general: diagnosis, general approaches, need for immediate response, hypovolemic shock, all related to reaching the goal of zero maternal deaths.

Dr. Antonio Pardo, Director of German Urquidi Hospital which attends the largest numbers of deliveries in Cochabamba, provided this training on a pro bono basis, with the assistance of five colleagues. (Dr. Jose Velasquez, Executive Director of Mano a Mano Bolivia, is addressing participants in this photo.)
Practical section of the Bakri balloon workshop

Why a Workshop Focused on Bakri Balloons?

Last year, we applied for funds in the US to purchase Bakri balloons after receiving this plea from nurses who work in a public hospital in the high Andean Bolivian city of Potosi:

“We have had three recent cases of mortality of women whose bleeding after delivery we couldn’t stop. We do not have the Bakri balloons that are essential, that they have in the United States that would help us in obstetric hemorrhage. This is something basic in other countries. They have this instrument, however in Bolivia most do not. Could you please help us?”  

Mano a Mano has been blessed with a constant flow of donated medical supplies during the past 30 years (we have shipped over 4,000,000 pounds of supplies to Bolivia).

Mano a Mano loading 3 containers with donated medical supplies and mobility equipment at our St. Paul warehouse for shipment to Bolivia – April 2024

But we had not received Bakri balloons, nor did we have requests for them. The Potosi nurses told us that many Bolivian health care professionals would not have been aware of this life-saving device.    

Based on the nurses’ plea and a small amount of funding, one of our Minnesota volunteers took on the task of searching for a supplier for this expensive device. He was unable to find a supplier of balloons in either Bolivia or any of the surrounding countries. After months of searching in the US and other international markets, he found an international supplier from which we could purchase a modest number of balloons at a reasonable cost.  

Our next challenge – transporting the balloons to Bolivia. We send ocean freight container shipments to Bolivia three times yearly. Each shipment travels for 3-6 months and then must clear customs before arriving at our warehouse in Cochabamba.

Unloading containers at our Cochabamba warehouse in March 2024 from our last Minnesota shipment in December 2023.

To shorten the transportation time, we asked every individual who was traveling from Minnesota to Bolivia for Mano a Mano purposes during recent months to hand-carry as many balloons as they could fit in their luggage. Thanks to these travelers we were able to transport 70 balloons and put them in the hands of Bolivian physicians who will use them.

Mano a Mano Internacional staff identified public hospitals located throughout Bolivia that perform large numbers of deliveries and informed them that Bakri balloons would be available. Physicians from several of these hospitals, eager to receive this important device, asked that we train them on how to use the balloons correctly.  

They know us. They know that Mano a Mano’s name (Hand to Hand in English) reflects how we work; that training the final user is included in process of passing these products from our hands in Minnesota to theirs in Bolivia. Dr. Pardo concluded the Zero Maternal Deaths due to Hemorrhage workshop by saying, “Now we have added dozens of Bakri balloons plus 45 more trained warriors in the fight to save the lives of women. We cannot permit that any woman dies giving birth.” 

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