When I get to the hospital, the patient is prepared for the operating theatre, and just waiting for me to evaluate her. She is 3cm dilated – which is very early in labor – and yet her contractions have stopped. The fetal head is so high up in the pelvis that the midwife’s fingers can barely touch it – a bad sign.
Veronica Ades is an obstetrician-gynecologist on her first MSF mission in Aweil, South Sudan. She has not yet mastered the art of the pit latrine.
On this Mother’s Day, let’s remember that 1,000 women still tragically die every day in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications that are preventable with skilled clinicians, drugs and equipment. Maternal death is an ongoing crisis, but it is an avoidable crisis and it deserves our attention.
The baby is cleaned off, examined and wrapped in a towel. Katie, the Australian midwife, brings the baby to the mother’s face so that she can see her while we are finishing the c-section. The mother makes no expression, but tears roll down her face when she sees her healthy baby.
It is only in this moment that I start to process the injustice of this. She is 18 years old. She was having her first baby. That is what is killing her.
My perspective definitely changed. This program has absolutely had a positive impact in Nigeria. In 2011, we performed more surgeries than any other fistula hospital in the country, and we had many women leaving our hospital dry, or at least able to live some semblance of a normal life.
The insufficient capacity of the Iraqi health system to respond to the medical needs of the population has contributed to an unprecedented increase of maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. In 2007, the World Health Organization estimated the Maternal Mortality ratio to be 300 per 100,000 live births. According to the latest UNICEF State of the World’s Children report, Iraq presents a neonatal mortality rate of 64, while neighboring Syria and Jordan presented a neonatal mortality rate of 7 and 16 respectively.