From Kendra Davenport, Africare Chief of Staff and Chief Development & Communications Officer
Everyone knows a woman who has given birth – a mother, a wife, daughter or other relative. And if they were fortunate enough to have delivered in the developed world, chances are they gave birth in a hospital, where they received medical attention from trained doctors and nurses who had state of the art medical equipment at their disposal to manage any complication. They may even have delivered in a “birthing center” designed to make the experience not only safe for both mother and baby, but relaxed and warm and memorable.
But for women in the developing world, childbirth is far less idyllic, far more harrowing and far less safe. Before the clock strikes 12 and most of us have called it a night and are tucked snugly in our beds, 800 women around the world will have died giving birth today, and another 800 will die tomorrow because 800 women around the world die bearing children every day.
Four hundred forty of those women will be from Sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of an African woman dying of a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is 25 times greater compared to a woman in the developed world. Because of this stark statistic, for most child bearing women in Sub-Saharan Africa, what should be one of the happiest experiences of their lives is among the most frightening.
As the mother of three, I’ll admit I was anxious about my deliveries. Anxious, but not afraid – not for a minute did I worry about the possibility of dying. I didn’t worry because it was so remote. I knew I was in good hands, in a reputable facility, being cared for by highly qualified doctors and nurses. Thousands of our African sisters don’t have that kind of peace of mind.
I am the mother of three girls, and like any parent, I would walk through fire to prevent them from enduring even one minute of the terror so many African women experience. Because I have given birth and because I am a mother I am passionate about this to be sure, but I know that the fierce empathy and compassion I feel for pregnant women is ubiquitous among humans, because each of us can relate on some level to the wonder of the birth of a child and to the promise each birth holds for the future.
And it gives me pause and great joy to tell you there is reason for hope – Africare is improving the chances of survival for mothers and infants by establishing Maternal Waiting Homes – Homes staffed by a trained nurse where women from surrounding villages can come days or even weeks before and after delivery to receive care and to ensure the birth of their child is attended by a nurse.
Africare works with communities to build the homes and ensures those communities take pride in them, and help build and run them so that they are sustainable.
The cost to build a maternal waiting home is less than $25,000 – far less than many of us spend on a car. But the impact is priceless – maternal waiting homes dramatically reduce maternal and infant mortality and make childbirth safer for mothers and babies. They give mothers and families hope and peace of mind. They give babies a better start. They give LIFE.