News

Saving the Lives of Mothers and Babies

Two babies in the MSF primary health care clinic in Mogadishu, Somalia. (2008)
Two babies in the MSF primary health care clinic in Mogadishu, Somalia. (2008)
Joe DeCapua

A medical aid group says every day about one thousand women worldwide die in childbirth or from complications related to pregnancy. Doctors Without Borders says most of those deaths can be prevented. It’s released a new report on the problem to coincide with International Women’s Day, March 8.

The report is called Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis. Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, says at least 15 percent of all pregnant women worldwide encounter a life-threatening complication. It says pregnant women are even more vulnerable during conflicts or crises.

Critical moment

Catrin Shulte-Hillen is the head of MSF’s Sexual and Reproductive Health International Working Group. She’s also a midwife. She said delivery is the most critical moment for saving the lives of both mother and child.

“When it goes right it’s beautiful. It’s a wonderful event. It brings you to tears because it’s such a beautiful event. When it’s wrong it’s chaotic,” she said.

Chaos comes from complications.

“They have such a symbiotic situation. If the mom is bad, the mom is exhausted; the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen. The baby suffers also. So the problem is as soon as you have a delivery that doesn’t go very spontaneously, very easily. The uterus doesn’t want to contract. She starts bleeding. You concentrate on the mother. The baby doesn’t breathe. That’s where it all accumulates,” she said.

Five main reasons are given for potentially deadly complications: hemorrhaging, sepsis or infection, unsafe abortions, eclampsia or hypertension and obstructed labor.

High standards

Shulte-Hillen says it’s uncommon for a woman to die in childbirth in developed nations. But when it does happen, health officials want to know why.

“Today in any hospital if there’s a maternal death there’s a commission that’s put up to investigate exactly what went wrong. That’s how seriously we take the fact that a woman dies in childbirth. And if you look at that in comparison to what happens in a large part of the world where it just gets completely unaccounted for,” she said.

Shulte-Hillen said MSF has high standards for maternal care, even in conflict zones or areas hit by natural disasters.

“We expect that in an MSF hospital you do not lose mothers. And we do the same thing we do in Europe. We have a commission. We get the whole staff together and do an analysis (on) why did this happen,” she said.

The Doctors Without Border’s report stated the solution is straightforward: skilled medical staff, drugs and equipment. It’s based on the group’s programs in 12 countries, including South Sudan, Haiti, Pakistan and Somalia.

In conflict zones like Somalia, health care infrastructure has been destroyed. Little medicine is available and trained medical professionals are often forced to flee. Similar conditions existed in Ivory Coast in early 2011, when political violence spread across the country. MSF describes Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth.

First things first

Shulte-Hillen said if or when the situation stabilizes, then comprehensive post-natal care, family planning and health education can be provided.

“The best that we can do as a medical organization is to be there today with assistance that is lifesaving,” she said.

Doctors Without Borders provides obstetric care in about 30 countries. It says in 2010, its medical teams delivered more than 150,000 babies.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs