The title maybe indicates the main focus of my life at the moment, but it is the name of a wonderful organisation working in Malawi as well , http://www.womenofmalawi.org. The driving force is Dr Valerie Donnelly and I have taken the following from the website.
“LIVING THROUGH CHILDBIRTH”
My name is Valerie Donnelly. I am a practicing Obstetrician in Mount Carmel Hospital, Churchtown, Dublin 14 since 2000 and am presently the Lead Clinician. I qualified in 1985 from the Royal College of Surgeons and trained in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland and Australia.
I first went to Malawi in November 2007 to help give a course in Emergency Obstetrics with the Irish College of Anaesthetists to Clinical Officers. I visited a local hospital and was so overwhelmed by the poor facilities, lack of supplies and of trained staff, the workload of the doctors and condition of the mother. Even in the hospital many of the babies died and the maternal mortality was totally unacceptable. The mothers are sick with anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDS and general malnutrition.
Infant mortality, within the hospital, is 10%. Maternal mortality, within the hospital, is 1 in 2000. This compares to a ratio of 1 in 100,000 in Ireland. UNICEF publishes a figure of Lifetime risk of Maternal Death of 1:18. The principle cause of maternal death is haemorrhage. Many of the women have severe anaemia due to a lack of iron in the diet. The provision of iron to pregnant women would have significant impact on the maternal mortality rate.
I returned in July 2008 to work at the hospital for a month as a volunteer. I brought supplies of sutures and drugs which I knew to be lacking. I transported these by DHL while I was there so that I could ensure they got to the right place.
In November 2008 I went back to the hospital and brought 27 boxes of supplies, theatre gowns, ventouse cups, sutures, drugs, drapes etc., Many of these items were donated to me and I organised pick up and distribution through the hospital agent, including an Ultrasound scanning machine. While working at the hospital I interviewed and gathered information on more than 500 women. I began to identify some of the most important issues were knowledge about pregnancy and the general wellbeing of the pregnant women. Most of the women were poorly educated and unaware when they should come to the hospital and many left their visit too late. Also many of the women were severely anaemic which was the major contributor to their problems and, I believe, to the deaths of some of them. In addition a lack of simple medical supplies lead to poor outcomes of routine medical procedures.
In January 2009 I returned to give another teaching programme with the Irish College of Anaesthetists.
In March 2009 I will visit again to set up a project to get information to the women in the villages. I am also looking to coordinate the delivery of an operating theatre to a district hospital. The operating theatre is the gift of an Irish entrepreneur.
On behalf of the Women of Malawi I thank you for your support.
The death of a mother in childbirth is a tragedy in any society. Women and children are our life for the future. In Ireland, when a woman dies in childbirth, this event can make headline news. 1 in 100,000 women die in labour in Ireland. In Malawi the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 1,800. In a single government hospital in Malawi, where I work, two or three women die each month. 85% of Malawian society lives in a rural agricultural setting, and this is where the majority of mothers deliver their babies. There is little data on the rural populations in Malawi, which means that the above-mentioned maternal death rate is likely higher – we actually have no accurate idea how many women die in childbirth in rural areas though this is being addressed by government bodies at present.
While there are many ways to help reduce maternal mortality The Women of Malawi Charity has decided to focus on three core issues.Proven ways to reduce the carnage in childbirth are:
Improving the mother’s health during pregnancy.
Having a skilled attendant at birth;
Educating the women about childbirth and;Preventing anaemia.
The main cause of death in childbirth is from haemorrhage. Mothers die because of lack of blood for transfusions, but they would not be so prone to blood loss if their iron level were higher in the first place. (Iron is a major mineral in blood that contributes to coagulation.) The average iron levels, at Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin where I work, during pregnancy is 11-12. At Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe where I volunteer on a regular basis, the average iron level is 6-7 in expectant mothers. This leaves the women susceptible to infections and death due to haemorrhage, and complicates delivery with preterm birth and small babies.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this cause.
Takulandilani indepo, Zicomo
(Welcome and Thank You in Chichewa, the language widely spoken in Malawi.)