A couple of months ago, I took a young woman of 19 who was in labour to the hospital. She was single, unemployed and with no family to speak of at the time. My organisation paid for the materials for her and her baby and waited and prayed at the hospital until she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy weighing 3.4kg at birth. She survived the birth and is safe and happy with her baby.
The next morning on getting to the hospital with food for our hungry new mother, I met a woman who had just had her baby a few minutes earlier. Her baby was wrapped in a strange looking material which I later realized was her skirt and she had on a wrapper borrowed from one of the nurses at the hospital. She had nothing with her for the baby and herself and was looking lost and alone. On further interaction, I found out that she was married and had just had her third child. I asked her if I could call anyone and she asked me to call her Pastor's wife, which I did.
I know what you'll be thinking... where was her husband?, Where was her family? No woman should have to go through such an experience alone!!... The truth was, she had no idea where her husband was at that time and a relative who was living with her, had to stay home to take care of her little kids while she came to the hospital alone to have her baby. in spite of 9 months notice, she was unable to afford to buy the basic necessities for herself and her baby since she was a housewife and earning no money. She opted to have her baby at that hospital because the government had removed user fees for maternal health.
A few weeks later on a visit to another hospital, a doctor i know introduced me to a woman who had been in the hospital for about a month because she had no money to pay her bills. She was brought in by her husband, nearly unconscious and on referral. The baby was already dead and she could not deliver the baby naturally. The woman and her husband came to the hospital with only Five Hundred Naira (a little less than 4$). The husband was asked to register at the hospital and collect a patients card while the woman was rushed into the theater for an emergency Cesarean Section. The husband left to pay for the card and has not returned till now, six weeks after ... The woman is still in the hospital and my organisation is still trying to raise funds to offset her bills and reunite her with her family.
These are some of the cases which we handle on a day to day basis as advocates for maternal health. Now I ask.. who is the culprit in these cases? The husband? the woman who has no skills and no means of livelihood?, the Government which offers little or no social security and no unemployment benefits? The struggling economy? The CSOs and NGOs who are saying so much and doing so little? or Mr. poverty who is no respecter of nationality, gender, race or ethnicity?
These women survived, but MILLIONS of women die needlessly in childbirth for the same reasons. Does abandonment at this critical time in a woman's life constitute violence against women? What can we do to improve the lot of women and ensure that they can be self reliant and self sufficient? What can we do to ensure that women do not die needlessly while giving life?
Please let me have your thoughts.
Thanks.eMagazine: Maternal Health