Every new baby should be like a royal baby

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Every new baby should be like a royal baby

by Nick Harvey


Madagascar: two children helped by Doctors of the World (© Bruno Fert)

I recently became a parent, so now I finally share something with William and Kate (as well as my British nationality). It was not an ‘easy’ birth – are any births easy? Our baby girl got stuck and the doctor pulled her out with a suction pump. Her head looked too long for a while, so she looked like a comedy alien.

It was not in the Lindo wing of St. Mary’s, but my daughter was lucky to be born in a good hospital with specialists there for any problems. But I started thinking, what would have happened if we hadn’t arrived at the hospital in time and there were no medical professionals to help? And I kept returning to the same answer: my wife and child would probably be dead.

Every day, about 800 women die from problems related to pregnancy and childbirth. And, not surprisingly, most of these deaths are in poor countries. But the big surprise is the percentage: 99 per cent of all maternal deaths are in developing countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Most deaths are from too much bleeding, infections, high blood pressure, disease and unsafe abortions. And most deaths did not have to happen. They happen for many reasons: not good healthcare facilities, not enough or not well-trained medical staff, not enough health education and the distance people live from health facilities.

I work for Doctors of the World. We run programmes in places with some of the highest maternal and child mortality rates. Every day our volunteer health professionals hear stories about the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth.

For example, Noor, a 25-year-old Syrian woman living with her three young children in a refugee camp in North Bekaa, Lebanon. ‘When I was eight months pregnant, a scorpion stung me and I had to go to hospital,’ she told us. ‘We had to pay 100,000 Lebanese pounds [about $66] for treatment. That’s a lot of money for me, but I had to pay or die.’

The good news is things are improving. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have decreased by almost half. Maybe this is because improving maternal health was one of the eight Millennium Development Goals from 2000.

But over three million new babies still die each year, and 2.6 million more are born dead. About 200 million women worldwide still need family planning and over 20 million women have dangerous abortions.

And it’s not just in poor countries where people have problems getting healthcare. Doctors of the World runs a clinic for migrants and other people who need help in East London, and a third of our new patients had tried to register with a GP before coming to us and not been able to. Two-thirds of our patients had difficulty getting healthcare in the past year because they didn't know how, or because of administrative problems and they could not get care.

The right to survive pregnancy and childbirth is an important part of the right to life. This is a fundamental right of women and children in all agreements, conventions and declarations made by the international community about human rights.

And this is your right wherever you’re from, if you’re rich or poor, if your blood is red or blue.

More information: http://doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/pages/about-us

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2013/07/23/royal-baby-africa-health/