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    Posted December 12, 2011 by
    Segbwema, Sierra Leone

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    Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     TobyBinder is a freelance photographer and shot this photo essay in March, 2010. "It's a tragedy that one of the most normal things in life - getting children - is a deadly trap for many women in Sierra Leone," he told me.
    - davidw, CNN iReport producer

    Maternal Mortality is one of the biggest problems in Africa – for a woman it‘s even more dangerous to get a baby than suffering from diseases or war.


    Sierra Leone counts among the countries with the highest maternal mortality rate worldwide, which is partly owed to the many years enduring civil war. In the country one in eight women risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth compared to a one in 76 average in the rest of the developing world and one in 8.000 in the developed world.


    Thousands of women bleed to death after giving birth. Most die in their homes. Some die on the way to hospital; in taxis, on motorbikes or on foot. In Sierra Leone, less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities.


    „We have a situation in Sierra Leone where the pregnant mothers would like to go to quack doctors and birth attendants during pregnancy and delivery, but when they experience medical complications that is when they come to the hospital,“ said Dr Francis Smart from the Health Ministry‘s reproductive health division. „Most times those mothers, when they arrive, are already at the point of death.“ A MSF report cited the experience of one woman who said she had four stillbirths at home before finally giving birth to a healthy baby once she was able to get to a hospital and have a caesarean section. Midwifery is a way that some Sierra Leonean women find to make a living for their families in a nation where at least 65% of the population is unemployed. But many of the women lack the skills to run the delivery homes that they operate.


    Hawa, a 60-year-old traditional birth attendant who runs a delivery home in the province of Kailahun in the southeastern part of Sierra Leone, said traditional delivery is an age-old practice that Sierra Leonean mothers know well. „I have been in this practice for over 35 years now and I have not experienced any death,“ she said. „We, the traditional midwives, are helping the health programme in Sierra Leone. For example, when a woman is in serious pain at midnight and there is no hospital near she would definitely come to the traditional midwife.“


    Medical professionals and Sierra Leonean women themselves say another reason they go to the midwives is because they lack the funds to pay for hospital care,and in many cases they don‘t even have the transportation costs to bring them to a health centre

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