Nigeria is a hard place to be a mom. As a midwife there, I should know. Too many mothers and babies are dying by the thousands every year, but dying needlessly.
One mother I cared for recently almost met this same fate. She was pregnant and had ruptured a membrane at 32 weeks. I told her that if she did not seek care at my hospital, she would be at risk of serious infection for herself and her unborn baby, stillbirth or premature birth. Luckily, she took my advice, and after being on bed rest for 5 weeks, delivered a healthy baby girl. Both mom and her new daughter are doing beautifully today.
This was a story with a happy ending but it is not always this way.
Many women who are in need of medical care in Nigeria don't get it for a variety of reasons. Either they can't afford it, they live too far from a health facility, or their husbands haven't allowed them to go. Some women literally die waiting for this permission.
It's no surprise then that, by and large, Nigerian women are choosing to deliver at home, sometimes with the help of a trained birth attendant, but too often without one. The health workers that are trained are not paid well, which gives them little incentive to stay in the communities where they're needed most. Compound this with bad roads, lack of electricity and poor water supply and you can appreciate why our maternal and child health figures -- as seen in Save the Children's 2013 State of the World's Mothers Report -- are not better.
But as I like to say, where there are challenges, there are always solutions.
A big part of the puzzle is to train more community midwives and health workers, which I'm pleased to say Nigeria has already started doing. These women are being taught life-saving skills such as neonatal resuscitation, infection control, kangaroo mother care and family planning so that women can have babies by choice, not by chance.
We also need stronger health systems to ensure health care is accessible for all, especially those living in rural communities. And more than anything, we need greater political will and commitment to ensure that the health of mothers and children is a top priority for governments around the world.
Show your support by sending a letter to America's leaders today asking them to protect global health funding and increase support for maternal, newborn and child-health programs.
Because no mother should have to die giving life.
In May, Save the Children released their State of the World's Mothers report. As a result of the findings from the report Save the Children and Johnson & Johnson wanted to share the compelling story of a midwife in Nigeria, so that we can better understand how frontline health care workers can make a difference in the life of a mother and her newborn baby.