Dr Adrian Brown is the Chair and Co-Founder of Maternity Worldwide, a charity bringing high quality maternal healthcare to women and girls in the developing world. All proceeds of Mindr's upcoming advocacy workshop on International Women's Day will support Maternity Worldwide's important work in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Did you know that every year, around 287,000 women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth? Or that for every woman who dies in childbirth, there are 20 more who suffer from injury, infection and/or disease during childbirth, equating to an additional 7 million women every year? Ninety-nine percent of these women live in developing countries. Every year, one million children die as a result of the death of their mothers.
The vast majority of these deaths are preventable, and it is unacceptable that there are such high rates of maternal death in low-income countries. This is why a colleague and I, both working in obstetrics and gynecology, decided to establish Maternity Worldwide in 2002. At Maternity Worldwide, we aim to help reduce the number of women dying or injured in childbirth in three Sub-Saharan African countries: Malawi, Uganda and Ethiopia. We chose this region because Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the world - 640 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is significantly higher than the 17 deaths per 100,000 in developed regions.
Our experience working in these countries has shown that the most practical way of reducing maternal deaths is to address three key delays, known as the 'Three Delay Model':
- Delay in seeking care, often caused by the low socioeconomic status of women and poor understanding of maternal health problems in communities
- Delay in reaching care, due to the inaccessibility of infrastructure and the lack of affordable transport
- Delay in receiving adequate care, due to a lack of trained staff, poorly equipped facilities and inadequate referral systems
In responding to these challenges, we have been able to make a difference across all three countries. Achievements in 2016 included:
- Working in 50 villages in Malawi to provide maternal health information through local women's groups, so they are aware of the risks of pregnancy and childbirth and can seek medical assistance early. More than 2,000 people have attended these groups, with 86 percent now aware of the danger signs to look for during pregnancy. Ninety-five percent would recommend local healthcare to a friend or relative in the future.
- Training 67 Health Surveillance Assistants, who are employed by the Malawian Government to provide maternal health information in the villages. This means that once women reach a health facility, fully trained staff are available to assist them.
- Opening our Maternity Center in Kiryabutuzi, Uganda. We have recruited two midwives, who have already started to establish health promotion sessions in the 14 surrounding villages.
Our goal for 2017 is to train more student midwives, increase the number of midwives at our health centers, and deliver health promotion sessions to more women's groups, along with antenatal care for pregnant women. However, we can't do this without the help of our fantastic supporters, which is why I want to thank everybody in the Mindr community for the upcoming advocacy workshop being held as a benefit for Maternity Worldwide. Without people like you, we would be unable to do this lifesaving work, and International Women's Day is the perfect time to highlight the inequalities still prevalent today across the world and to make a change.