Between Life and Death

Why is Africa still the most dangerous place in the world for mothers and babies?

Women were always shy to make decisions. Men were always the ones who decide this. Now that we have men in the group they share the responsibility.

by Lifelines Health Hero Tannes Kalinda

Every day, 800 women die from preventable causes relating to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organisation. Forty million women around the world give birth without trained help every year. 

Until recently, Malawi had the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world for a non-conflict country. But it has achieved a dramatic turnaround towards the 2015 global MDG targets.

First, in 2008 the government controversially banned traditional birth attendants who had been looking after pregnant women in rural villages.  Their lack of medical training often left them unequipped to deal with birthing complications. So the government asked all women to give birth in hospitals.

Health outreach workers now educate and help mothers in these areas by identifying them and giving them access to a “secret mother”, a person  who can monitor their pregnancies and make sure they have as much information as possible before they give birth.

Health workers organise mothers to tend to gardens growing food to meet their nutritional needs. They also help pregnant women with transport, so that they reach hospitals to give birth, rather than being stranded in their villages.

NGOs like MaiKhanda also encourage the men of the community to get involved, considering that they still hold most positions of leadership within the community. 

The numbers are improving. From Malawi’s President Joyce Banda to the poorest women in remote communities, there are many health heroes in Malawi willing to work hard to turn the dismal health record around.

Will groups like MaiKhanda be able to make the process of childbirth safe for mothers and babies?

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health   profiles the extraordinary work of global health workers in their quest to rid the world of the deadly neglected diseases and conditions that keep millions of people in poverty.


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