From The Annual Journal

'Contributions to the 2020 journal include commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale who worked at The Middlesex Hospital during the Cholera epidemic of 1854, it also includes memories of the war years and the celebrations of peace 70 years ago. One member wrote of her work in 2005 in Africa.'

Challenges in Child Birth 2005 & 2007

It all started one evening while my husband and I were watching a Panorama documentary called ‘Dead Mums Don’t Cry’. The maternal death rate was 1:11 births in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad and the foetal mortality was also high, also many died of malaria and other tropical diseases. There was no birth control and the men refuse to use condoms.

I contacted Panorama as I felt something had to be done about this terrible state of affairs. An obstetrician in Chad gave advice on how to help and what equipment was needed. Eventually, the big day came for a small group of us to fly to Chad. A team from Panorama decided to come with us to make a sequel to their original documentary.

When we eventually got to the maternity unit we could hardly believe our eyes for the conditions were so poor. The heat was terrible, there were no fans and there were flies everywhere. There were a few mosquito nets but they all had large holes in them...

Puerperal fever was very common and there were very few antibiotics in the hospital so some patients died. There were local pharmacies but the drugs had to be paid for and many of the patients only bought enough for 24-48 hours of treatment. I am sure many of those returning to their villages died either en-route or after arrival, for some the journey took two days. Women do give birth in the villages where they have birthing attendants who are very good, but of course only for normal deliveries. I did some training with a small group of them and was impressed with their basic knowledge of midwifery. Before I went to Chad I had teaching sheets translated into French and they were thrilled with them. However, some of them were illiterate but were keen to learn from other birthing attendants.

During our time in Chad we had several meetings with the local health minister, using our very good French interpreter. The UNFPA gave us a car and driver for our exclusive use and they bent over backwards to try to help us. On our return to the UK two of us were asked to appear on BBC News, we were interviewed by Bill Turnbull and Mishal Husein. It was a bit nerve racking but they did their best to put us at ease.

In 2007 we revisited Chad to check on progress, the hospital had not changed but the maternal death rate had plummeted to about 20 per annum. This was almost all due to better pharmaceutical supplies. These two experiences were a real eye opener for me and made me realise how very lucky we are in the Western World with modern medicine and clean hospitals.


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