Best Investment for a Healthier World


Entrepreneurial Ugandan midwife starts with garage, then maternity home

By Kate Greene, Abt Associates

Sister Hellen Nkojo and her staff Photo credit: Sayaka Koseki
Sister Hellen Nkojo and her staff. Photo credit: Sayaka Koseki

Oftentimes training for frontline health workers focuses on clinical or leadership skills, but support to private providers for business development can also improve health worker productivity and performance. Sister Hellen Nkojo, a retired midwife at the Nightingale Domiciliary in the Kabarole district in Uganda, is a case in point.

Nkojo turned her garage into a private maternity clinic 10 years ago. With her dedication and exceptional skills in handling deliveries, Nkojo quickly won the confidence of the community and beyond. In 2012, Nkojo enrolled in the SHOPS Healthy Baby Vouchers Program, which focuses on helping mothers gain access to affordable, high quality obstetric care. Soon, many more pregnant women came to her facility for voucher services. In addition to the profits made from serving the mothers with vouchers, Nkojo benefitted from the business skills she acquired from the program’s training course on maintaining accurate financial records, which helped her obtain a business development loan from a commercial bank.

 Nkojo’s passion for helping women deliver safely motivates her work:

“I decided to devote my life to help women deliver safely because my own daughter died when giving birth...I will do whatever is in my powers to help a mother have a safe delivery.”

After just one year of the program, Nkojo had raised enough money to build a new maternity wing that included a laboratory, a nurse’s room, a 10-bed resting room for mothers, and a delivery room that can accommodate two deliveries at once. These additions transformed her small garage clinic into a larger maternity home, enhancing her ability to serve local mothers.

As her facility expanded, Nkojo recruited three new staff: a midwife, an enrolled comprehensive nurse, and a laboratory assistant. Dr. Richard Mugahi, Kabarole’s district health officer, who officially opened the new facility, applauded Nkojo for all her valiant efforts helping save the lives of mothers and babies in the district:

“There are a few examples of people like Hellen Nkojo who are passionate about serving Ugandans as well as being focused with their business. What you have done today will go a long way to serve Ugandans better.”