Friday, April 01, 2011

A Thought for Mothering Sunday

Midwife Grace teaches Zainabu to care for Yasini.
I am in a position of privilege. I was born at a healthy weight, by caesarian section, in a clean, safe and warm theatre of the old Warneford Hospital, Royal Leamington Spa, in 1984. My mother, although 42, was safe throughout the procedure. As was I.

With Mothering Sunday approaching, amid all of its cheap CDs of songs our mums all already own, cards from service stations and flowers that last until Monday morning, and with my own thoughts turning to my trip to East Africa in less than a week, we should think not only of our own families, but also of those in a less fortunate position to ourselves - especially mothers in the third world.

After attending the Save the Children Born to Write Blogging Conference I received an email talking about a report that the charity had commissioned. The report, entitled Missing Midwives, brings into sharp focus the extreme danger that up to 48 million women face annually by giving birth without any form of maternity expert present.

In some of the poorest countries, the report states, sometimes for cultural reasons and most often as a result of a lack of any services, that women often just give birth at home with only a dirty blade to cut the umbilical cord and herbs from a traditional healer to try and combat infection. The risks of such practices are not only high for the newborn, but are equally as high for the mother.

One of the starkest contrasts is that between the care provision of the UK and that of Ethiopia. In the UK only 1% of women give birth without any form of trained help. In Ethiopia 94% of births are without trained assistance. 

In the UK there are 749,000 births a year and 26,825 working midwives. In Rwanda, where I will be in seven days, there are only 46 fully trained midwives and yet 400,000 births take place annually.

Premature Yasini benefits from 'skin-to-skin' care. All photos © Save the Children.
Save the Children are doing their bit to help - in Afghanistan, for example, the number of midwives has tripled over the past three years - but more needs to be done. Save the Children are now campaigning in an attempt to draw attention to what they estimate is a 350,000 shortfall in midwifery care around the world.

8.1 million children die before they reach the age of five and of those, one in ten dies during birth and won't even see the end of their first day on earth - a further million die during the delivery itself. 

Pledging support and spreading the word of what Save the Children do can help mothers like Zainabu to look after Yasini (pictured) during those delicate first days, months and years. More importantly, it can help midwives like Grace, in the Kangaroo Care Ward at Mtwara District Hospital, Tanzania, to train more mothers in how to care for their newborns.

Don't forget your own family this Mothering Sunday, but definitely don't turn a blind eye to the hardships of others. Now is the time to pledge your support for Save the Children's Mothers for Other Mothers campaign in an attempt to address these discrepancies. 



For more information about Save the Children UK visit www.savethechildren.org.uk or follow them on Twitter (@SaveChildrenUK).

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