Keeping African Mothers Healthy
Mother’s Day for most of in the developed world is usually a time of celebration. But, in Sub-Saharan Africa where nearly half of the world’s maternal deaths occur, giving birth can be very dangerous. This is especially true in rural, underserved areas where health care is often lacking and preventable complications during childbirth are often undiagnosed and untreated.
In West Africa, Sierra Leone’s First Lady is addressing the issue of maternal and child mortality and she’s turning to The United Methodist Church and other faith communities to help.
(Locator: Bo, Sierra Leone)
Adama Johnbull and her unborn daughter are in grave danger. Nine months pregnant, this 25-year-old mama-to-be has life-threatening preeclampsia, severe anemia…and malaria. Without medical care she may not survive delivery.
Half of all maternal deaths in the world occur on this continent. The same is true for deaths of children under five.
(Visiting ward) "Nine months, alright."
In post-war Sierra Leone, First Lady Sia Koroma is determined to change that.
Nat sound: "We depend on your services, congratulations. Thank you very much."
Long before she was First Lady, Her Excellency was a nurse…and a United Methodist. She is taking her education and faith to heart as she visits patients at United Methodist Kissy Hospital in Freetown.
Sia Koroma: "The power comes from God. Many hands make light work. The more partners we have the easier it will be."
As she tours the hospital, United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu is by her side. She considers him and the church to be strong partners in reducing maternal and child deaths.
Sia Koroma: "They have used their podiums very wisely because they are respected. Their messages go far and wide. So we are making use of them to make change in society."
Women are the backbone of African societies…they tend the fields, gather the firewood and water, care for the children, and prepare the meals. So, if a woman falls ill or dies, it can paralyze a family.
In many cultures, young girls are promised into marriage and all the responsibilities that come with it. The First Lady has enlisted the support of clergy and imams to prevent this traditional practice.
Sia Koroma: "There is nowhere in the scripture where it says you could give somebody in marriage before the age of 18."
Faith leaders have also been instrumental in educating communities about preventable diseases like malaria.
When The United Methodist Church launched Imagine No Malaria here in 2010, it not only distributed bed nets but also formed a Health Board that strengthened training, capacity, and reach that extended far beyond prevention and treatment of malaria.
(Training) "Mosquito nets, they save lives."
Sia Koroma: "It is believed that 50 percent of maternal death is due to malaria. So most of the untimely deaths will be reduced by having a No Malaria campaign. It’s a deadly disease."
At Manjama United Methodist Health Center in rural Sierra Leone, this patient endures labor with the support of a skilled birth attendant. Through its partnership with Imagine No Malaria, the government has promoted the importance of medical care during pregnancy and delivery.
Nurse: "And the baby is small for date."
The prognosis for mother and daughter is good because they are receiving quality care.
And, back at Mercy Hospital in Bo, Adama receives life-saving treatment. Just a few days later, she delivers a healthy baby girl. Both thrive.
Sia Koroma wants more mothers and babies to thrive. It’s her duty as First Lady but, more importantly, it’s who she is as a United Methodist.
Sia Koroma: "My Christian ethics, the values I learned in The United Methodist Church. We always say my work, even as First Lady, is an extension of God’s pulpit in my life. If you apply your Christian principles and values to society- it’ll make the difference, yes."
Sierra Leone has made remarkable progress in addressing maternal and child deaths but there is more work to do. Imagine No Malaria will participate in a governmental Integrated Health Campaign in June 2014 to distribute new insecticide-treated bed nets in the Bo District and provide preventative health care for pregnant women and children.
Learn about the Imagine No Malaria campaign.