Sten Jansson traveled down a mud road 25 miles from a regional capital city in Tanzania and crossed the mountain range of Uluguru. The other side of the mountain meant stepping back in time. No electricity flowed here. There were no phones, no taxis and no ambulances. Too often, there was no life just after birth. Jansson, a Swedish Lion, has been to Tanzania multiple times. On this visit he met Ahmed Kassim, who told him the story of his daughter. Bahati, 18, had given birth at night when the dispensary was closed and no midwife was available. She lost a lot of blood in the delivery and by morning she and her newborn were dead. “It was an ordinary day in Tanzania. There was nothing special about all this,” says Jansson ruefully. In Sweden birth is almost always an occasion of life. Its infant mortality rate is not only low but so also is its maternal mortality rate. Only two mothers per 100,000 births die, the lowest percentage in the world. It’s far different story in Tanzania, where skilled healthcare workers often are not present at birth. Its Ministry of Health says the maternal death rate is a startling 578 per 100,000 births. The World Health Organization puts the rate even higher at 950. For years, Swedish Lions have provided eye care services for Tanzania. Working with SightFirst and other sight groups, they’ve built clinics, purchased equipment, trained personnel and sponsored surgeries, saving the sight of multitudes of children and adults. But appalled by the lack of adequate medical care for pregnant women Swedish Lions are laboring to preserve the lives of mothers. Swedish Lions are working with health officials and local Lions in the Morogoro region to upgrade health centers with new equipment, clean water and electricity, train staff, provide maternal waiting homes and improve the referral system. On this last visit, Jansson was with medical specialists who were providing obstetrics training to healthcare workers at remote clinics. Most of the maternal deaths in Tanzania are preventable with basic obstetrical care. Women typically die from bleeding, infection or high blood pressure. Time is rarely on their side. They delay in traveling to a clinic. ItTakes a long time to get to a clinic, and health care workers, overworked, underequipped and sometimes lacking necessary medical skills, delay in starting treatment. The Swedish Lions are being advised by Dr. Staffan Bergstrom, who works in Africa for the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm and also is associated with Columbia University in New York. Bergstrom calls the maternal mortality crisis “the scandal of our time.” In a paper, he wrote, “Twenty thousand daily deaths globally due to pregnancy complications are more than all the deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. … There should be no ‘competition’ in misery statistics but there is clearly a need of much more attention to a non-recognized and ignored, crucial challenge of maternal ill-health and death.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Returning+The+Joy+To+Birth/445806/42659/article.html.