Maternal deaths do not take place in a visible and concentrated way, but occur among very young mothers, in small villages, and a few at a time. Most die in terror from haemorrhage or in agony from obstructed labour as their pelvises are too small. Not only are the lives of these mothers abruptly terminated but the chances of survival of their new-borns and the two or more children that they already have and leave behind, decreases dramatically. It is also very likely that their families disintegrate in the aftermath of their death.
from MaterCareInternationalThis short online documentary discusses the shocking conditions under which mothers in sub-Saharan Africa give birth and what is being done by a dedicated group of doctors to change this much ignored situation. Produced by MaterCare International, "an organization of Catholic healthcare professionals dedicated to care of mothers and babies, both born and unborn" Mothers Matter outlines the difficult situation many young mothers in Africa face in order to give birth to their babies without access to proper maternal and obstetrical care. Beginning in Isiolo, Kenya, where they were invited by the Apostolic Vicariate, MaterCare has developed an unique maternal healthcare model that is respectful of the local culture and conditions and environmentally responsible.
Currently, the vast majority of women in sub-Saharan Africa deliver their babies at home in the bush without any access to medical care. Many experience serious complications due to malnutrition, chronic disease, tribal warfare, and drought. Without proper care these women risk dying alone and in agony. Others end up with serious problems such as ruptured bladders or rectums, resulting in debilitating and socially isolating incontinence. In fact, the images in the short film of women walking around carrying a small pan in front of their abdomens are both saddening and disturbing - because this needn't happen.
Maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa are 1 in 31 compared with 1 in 10,000 in Canada. Ninety-one percent of the causes of maternal mortality can be treated by access to simple, good obstetrical care. So why hasn't more been done to help women in the Third World have their babies safely? A big part of the problem is the focus by international organizations and governments on "reproductive health" which generally means the promotion of abortion and contraception. This approach is completely irrelevant to the problem of maternal mortality since it does not offer the mother a way to have her baby in a safe and healthy way. It is an approach lacking in compassion because it ignores the great love of family and children that characterize African society. Many governments demonstrate a lack of initiative and political will in finding a solution to the problem of poor maternal care in developing countries . It seems shameful that we in the West have forgotten our sisters in their hour of need, for what should be one of the most basic rights of a woman; the right to basic maternal care.
MaterCare, which was founded by Dr. Robert Walley, has developed a model for obstetric care in poor rural areas. It revolves around a 30 bed maternity care hospital in conjunction with several outlying parish maternity centres that provide quality care closer to the mothers villages. There is also the use of a 4X4 ambulance to transfer serious cases to the hospital at Isiolo. The documentary shows a clean, professional facility that offers the women of Isiolo safe maternal care while respecting their dignity as women and mothers.
Mothers Matter provides us with the opportunity to meet some of the mothers and their children in this part of the world and to understand some of the unique problems that need to be overcome in order to bring safe maternal care to African communities.
"Mothers Matter" because when a mother, who is the heart of the family dies, the family often struggles to remain intact. This is true in North American society and it is even more true in the family centered culture of Africa. Take time to investigate the innovative work done by MaterCare International and please consider a donation. As far as I was able to determine, Dr. Walley who hails from Eastern Canada, receives no support from the Canadian government nor from the Canadian Bishops Development and Peace Fund.
Update: MaterCare International has written a post about the lack of funding support from DPF. Dr. Walley writes,
"MCI has presented Development and Peace with the opportunity to participate in projects that directly reflect the claimed beliefs and missions of their organization, and yet they have time and time again squandered these opportunities in favor of advancing their own dated and unfocused agenda. Sadly, requests to participate in Development and Peace’s fundraising campaign, Share Lent, were greeted with a sharp “NO”."
Perhaps it's time to bypass DPF altogether and give directly to organizations like MCI whose work directly impacts women and children in the developing world?