Maria (not her real name) is from the town of Nyarutuntu, a four-hour walk from Bwindi Community Hospital. She has two children who were both born at home and are now in school. Maria had another baby who was born at home and sadly died shortly after delivery. She earns money by picking coffee beans and, like most families in the area, she and her children exist on less than $1 a day. When Maria became pregnant for the third time she was afraid of another home delivery.
Imagine giving birth to a baby at night in a dark mud hut in a village on a hillside close to the Impenetrable Forest. What would you do if the baby wasn’t breathing? How would you reach help if you bled heavily after delivery without a telephone and with no transport available? Home delivery was the only option available to women like Maria until Bwindi Community Hospital opened. She risked becoming a statistic – one of the 550 out of every 100,000 women each year who die in pregnancy or childbirth in Uganda. Or she risked having one of the 22,000 babies who die in the first week of life every year in this country.
Then she heard some of the midwives from Bwindi present a radio program about the importance of Hospital delivery, and how there was a Waiting Mothers Hostel that she could stay in and access a safe delivery at a price that she could afford.
Maria was the first woman to stay in our Waiting Mothers Hostel, 500 more have followed her. This part of the Hospital has become so popular that we are building an extension and bringing in bunk beds. Now more than 300 women a month attend pregnancy clinics and 100 women each month choose the safety of Hospital delivery over home delivery. Out of 1,000 deliveries at Bwindi Community Hospital in the last year there has only been one maternal death- a fifth of the national average. The Maternity ward in Bwindi is not luxurious, but it is clean, always staffed, and emergency drugs and blood are always available.
After delivery most women leave for home very quickly, but the midwives check the babies thoroughly and see them again 6 weeks later for a second round of immunisations and a check-up. This is also the perfect time to discuss family planning options with new mothers to help them to choose to space their families well.
How you can Help
Each safe delivery costs the Hospital $100. This includes four visits to the pregnancy clinic, scans, blood tests (including one to detect HIV so that we can give drugs to prevent the baby getting HIV), admission to the Maternity Ward and all of the care given by the team of nurses and midwives dedicated to safe motherhood.
Marie Stopes International helps the Hospital with some of these costs, but there is a significant shortfall. As we reach our target of 150 safe deliveries each month the cost to the Hospital, mainly in providing staff and supplies, will increase to almost $150,000 per year. There are tough choices to be made in Africa. Either we raise the money to subsidise care for those like Maria who cannot afford to pay themselves, or we cut back and only give to those who are better off. To continue serving the poor we need your help. Any contribution, however large or small, will go directly to helping those most in need.