Picture this – a hospital room filled with clean blankets, pink balloons, and bright florescent lights that illuminate the rooms as several nurses’ work around the clock to care for the mother and her newborn baby. The moment the mother’s water broke she was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and immediately given quality medical care. And when complications arose, no one hesitated before rushing her into the operating room for a cesarean-section.
Now picture this – a woman is lying on the floor of a small one room hut surrounded by her family and neighbors. When she went into labor she had to make a decision – attempt to make it the 18km to the closest medical clinic or deliver at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant (a woman with no official training). The choice was easy. So as she lies on the floor mat the birth attendant helps to deliver the child by light of a candle – using a dirty cloth to wipe the blood and un-sanitized scissors to cut the umbilical cord. Best case scenario… both mother and child are healthy and happy. Worst case scenario… both mother and child die due to complications that the untrained birth attendant was unable to recognize, treat, or prevent.
The difference in these scenarios is stark and all too common when comparing a birth in the first world to a birth in the third world.
In Madagascar, despite local clinics (CSB) with trained midwives, more than 39% of all births take place in the home with the support of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) – and based on my experience this statistic is FAR too low. Although these TBAs often have knowledge gained through experience, they usually lack formal training. Sadly this can lead to an increase in maternal and infant mortality. This is the case across the country and within my own community, Maromitety.
As trusted members of the community, there’s an opportunity improve the role of the TBA. Within my village, the Doctor, midwife and I are working to meet this need by organizing a comprehensive training for TBAs across all 11 villages reporting to our CSB. The training will primarily focus on the precautions needed before, during, and after childbirth. While ideally all women would give birth at the CSB we know this isn’t realistic and therefore want to equip the TBAs with the knowledge to do their jobs more safely and to send women to the CSB when complications arise. The objective of this program is to promote safe motherhood and decrease the rate of maternal and infant mortality, by minimizing the risks of childbirth. Through training local birth attendants we are empowering an existing community to save lives every day.
The reality of childbirth is often grim in remote and vulnerable villages of Madagascar. But it doesn’t have to be.
Please consider helping to fund this training for our traditional birth attendants. Visit https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/safe-motherhood/ and donate today. A few dollars can make the world of difference for a mother and child.