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Scots mums speak out over maternal health in Ghana. Death rate amongst newborns nearly 10 times higher

Posted by Adrian Doherty Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

28th Dec 2011

New mothers in Scotland are being asked to compare their experiences of childbirth to those of their counterparts in Ghana as part of a new Oxfam campaign to improve maternal health care across the developing world.

Despite recent advances in the Ghanian public health system the death rate amongst new born babies in 2009 was still 27 per 1000 live births. [1] The equivalent figure in Scotland is just 2.8. [2]

Oxfam Scotland is hosting photo exhibitions and film screenings in January and February and will be inviting Scottish mothers, and other interested members of the public along. The events, which will be publicised soon, will shine a light on the differences and similarities between giving birth in Scotland and in the West African country.

Scottish Mum Rosie McCulloch, who gave birth to her daughter, Olive, in June 2011, said:

"I didn't realise what a dangerous time of your life it can be. I went in for a routine blood pressure test and the nurse said 'Oh', and they kept me in. They had discovered I had pre-eclampsia, which could have been serious enough to kill me and the baby. The midwife didn't wait a minute to act. I was given drugs and the baby was induced.

"At the time I didn't think the test was that important - I just thought it was routine. If I had been forced to pay for it then I probably wouldn't have had it done. It's only now I realise just how important the right kind of medical care is throughout pregnancy and after having the baby."

Maternal health care in Ghana has improved rapidly since 2008 when the Government agreed to campaigners' demands to provide free care to mothers and children. However, serious problems remain - especially in rural areas - where a lack of education, access to clinics and a shortage of health workers, along with insufficient access to drugs, lead to many avoidable deaths.

Selina Fletcher, who gave birth at Ghana's Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, said:

"When I arrived at the hospital I was totally unprepared for what was going to happen to me. In Ghana you have to bring your own disinfectant, a hair net, and a blanket to cover the bed, but I didn't know that beforehand so my friend had to leave me to go and find money to pay for these things.

"Even though I was about to give birth, I kept worrying about all the bills, for things like drugs, that I would have to pay. But it had been worse giving birth to my earlier children. Then there were hospital fees which made it cost even more so I did not come to this hospital. That made things even more difficult for me."

The 'Birth Rights' campaign will encourage activists and other supporters to get involved by putting on their own shows, with material provided by Oxfam.

Sara Cowan, who coordinates the campaign and has worked in Ghana, said:

"A scanner or an oxygen tank may seem like essential equipment for a Scottish midwife, but in Ghana the most important piece of kit a midwife can have is her motorbike. Health facilities in the rural areas I visited were very quiet. Too many expectant mums in the country still believed they had to pay, and others were prevented from attending by the poor transport, and the great distances, between the clinics and their homes.

"We're asking Scottish mums to think what it would be like if they had to give birth without the support offered in Scottish hospitals. A film or a photo exhibition isn't quite the same thing as experiencing it yourself, but it's the next best thing when it comes to communicating the huge difficulties these brave new mums face every day." 

Blog post written by Adrian Doherty

Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

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