By IHP, Mar 25 2017 06:15PM
Sophia Jones is IHP’s Communications Manager. Here she writes about why every woman’s life is important.
Mothers’ Day is upon us. It’s the perfect time to spoil our mums with breakfast in bed, cards, gifts and goodies. To say thank you and make up for perhaps not being as grateful as we should or could have been the rest of the year. As a mum myself I’m grateful that I have three healthy children. But I almost missed out on these precious gifts twice. My first birth 21 years ago was touch and go. I had pre-eclampsia and both my daughter and I almost died. Thankfully, I had an emergency caesarean section and she was delivered safe and sound and my out-of-control blood pressure was stabilised. During labour with my second child 19 years ago, the umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around her neck that another emergency caesarean was performed and she was fine.
Childbirth in the West has its risks but the risks are nothing compared to if I had given birth to my children in parts of Africa or Asia. Prior to coming to IHP, I lived and worked in East Africa. I travelled throughout this vast region and met and interviewed countless mothers, many of whom had lost a child either in childbirth, conflict, drought or famine. I’ve also interviewed husbands who lost their wives in childbirth and children whose mothers have died giving birth to either them or their younger sibling. I remember talking to a new grandmother in a refugee camp in Chad who couldn’t hide her excitement that her daughter had given birth to a healthy baby girl in a hospital run by the charity I worked for. She told me that the entire family was waiting outside to celebrate the safe delivery of her first granddaughter. She was grateful that both her daughter and granddaughter were healthy. She, and others like her, knew full-well that child birth in her part of the world comes with many risks.
Over 300,000 women die each year in pregnancy or childbirth: the majority of them in Africa and South Asia. From 2005 to 2012, annual mortality rates fell from an estimated 550,000 women to 287,000, but last year this increased to 303,000. There’s something wrong with this picture. The data is steadily creeping up instead of going down. The target of the 2016 to 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
Eight years previously, at the Reproductive Health in Emergencies conference in Kampala, Uganda, it was stated, “Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because society decides that they are not worth treating.” Angela Gorman is CEO of one of our NGO partners, Life for African Mothers (LFAM), based in Cardiff. She is driven by the motto stated in Millennium Development Goal five, “No woman should die giving birth”. The main causes of death during childbirth are: haemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, eclampsia, obstructed labour. Haemorrhage is the highest killer accounting for approximately 25% of all deaths.
Life for African Mothers is a Maternal Health charity aiming to make birth safer in Sub Saharan Africa by providing medication to treat post-partum haemorrhage. They provide medication donated by IHP donors to treat complications of child birth and support hospitals and health centres across Africa as well as provide medical skills exchange visits by UK-based midwives to Liberia and Sierra Leone. They have seen huge reductions in maternal mortality rates since they began 11 years ago.
By providing medication and services, free of charge, to treat the complications of child birth, LFAM have been able to support hospitals and health centres across Africa and see huge reductions in maternal mortality. “I’m humbled and privileged to do this but I’m also angry that it has to be us, a small organization to be doing it,” says Angela who believes that women’s health in many countries is not a priority.
Just over 100 years ago Angela’s grandmother died of post-partum haemorrhage in Wales, “My dad was the seventh of ten children. My grandmother died giving birth to the eleventh,” she explains. “One hundred years later, thousands of women are dying of what my granny died of,” she continues.
She would like to see governments and global institutions investing in medicines and women’s health that will see an end to their needless deaths at childbirth. “There is a disconnect between the decision-makers and the people on the ground who are doing the work,” she stresses. She also is keen that mums should know their worth, “Women themselves have to realise how precious they are. They don’t know.”
Angela Gorman has also written a book about her work entitled “Every Woman’s Right”. To purchase your copy click here
Picture: Angela Gorman, CEO of Life For African Mothers with Hannah and her daughter, Angela. Hannah is a survivor of post partum haemorrhage.