Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maternal and Infant Health in Mozambique

My sister sent me this article from NPR about maternal and infant mortality in Mozambique. Written by Melissa Block, with NPR, the statistics are startling:

"In her lifetime, a Mozambican woman has a 1 in 37 chance of dying during pregnancy or within a short time after a pregnancy has ended. One in 10 children won't live past the first year. One in 7 dies before reaching the age of 5."

They talk about Monapo and Nacala, the area I used to live in while I was a teacher in Mozambique from 2007-2009. I went to the hospital in Monapo when I had a serious health problem. My throat was slowly swelling shut because of a bacterial abcess and a doctor and nurse took a look at me and just started laughing at the appearance of my abcess. The doctor then prescribed me a medicine I`m a allergic to. My experience was small peanuts in comparison to what these women must go through. I can`t even imagine what it must feel like to be a pregnant woman in such an environment.

The hospital is exactly how they describe it in the article. It seems like it`s forever stuck in the 1960`s or 70`s. There are mattresses on floors. Dirt is visible. The sanitation level is poor. Medical utensils and tools lay about. I remember sitting and waiting on a bench to see a doctor, and looking around, I saw an ancient rusted and unplugged refridgerator with an old label of "Blood Bank" written on it. It looked like it had been there when the Portuguese were still in Nampula - in 1974. There is no sense of urgency with staff. The pregnant women or women with babies seemed to sit for hours and hours, waiting for a doctor or nurse to speak with them.

There are not enough doctors to accomodate the population of Mozambique and many of them are overworked. If more nurses were trained in emergency surgical skills and techniques and there was more education about pregnancy and maternal health, the mortality rate would improve dramatically.

Here is also a documentary called Birth of a Surgeon, that follows a woman in the southern part of Mozambique as she struggles to help Mozambican women through midwifery and surgical skills.

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