Maternal mortality is a critical public health issue in Gambia, West Africa, with around 800 women dying from preventable causes linked to pregnancy and childbirth in 2020. This is equivalent to one woman every two minutes (Save the Children Federation, 2023).
With a maternal mortality ratio of 597 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017 (Giwa, 2021), this highlights the urgency of how imperative it is to target maternal mortality and make sure every mother has access to the care and support they need while giving birth. Did you know that 75% of maternal deaths in Gambia are a direct cause of hemorrhages, obstructed labor, sepsis, eclampsia, and abortion complications? (Cham et al., 2005). This is alarming since most of these deaths are preventable if there are adequate medical interventions available.
Obtaining immediate medical interventions in Gambia is quite challenging to the point where a mother-in-law reported how her grandchild had died due to the medical providers making her daughter wait 3 days before treating her eclampsia. (Cham et al., 2009).
Delayed care extends to instances where a patient diagnosed with hand presentation faced a two-day delay in intervention, ultimately leading to her death (Cham et al., 2009). Addressing delayed care is a crucial step in reducing preventable deaths. The primary cause behind this delayed care is the shortage of doctors in Gambia. The country faces a severe deficit of trained healthcare professionals, with a rate of 0.107 physicians (less than one doctor) and 1.618 midwives (a little bit more than one) per 1,000 population (Keita, 2021). This shortage significantly impacts timely and essential healthcare. Poor working conditions further strain, with electricity and water shortages in healthcare facilities contributing to staff departures and emigration to private sectors (Keita, 2021).
As a result, Gambia struggles with a minimal 0.6% cesarean rate, while the recommended rate is 5-15% and an average four-day delay in attending to labor cases (Keita, 2021). However, hope lies in the Maternal and Child Health Advocacy International (MCAI). Through collaborations with local professionals, education on emergency care, and lobbying for government support, MCAI is actively transforming healthcare in Gambia.
Donations to MCAI have helped with the supply of essential drugs, medical supplies, and emergency equipment, benefiting major hospitals and health centers (Cole-Ceesay et al., 2010). Their impact extends to the renovation and refurbishment of healthcare infrastructures, including maternity wards, labor and delivery units, operating theaters, and children's wards (Cole-Ceesay et al., 2010). The MCAI's initiatives, such as providing textbooks and organizing emergency transport systems, have been implemented in regions covering a population exceeding 500,000 people (Cole-Ceesay et al., 2010).
Your involvement is crucial in this collective effort. By donating to MCAI, you become an integral part of ensuring every mother in Gambia has access to the care and support they need during childbirth. Your contribution goes beyond acknowledgment; it becomes a powerful voice for Gambian mothers, bringing attention to preventable tragedies and advocating for basic access to quality healthcare. Let's unite to bring about change, ensuring a safe and comfortable delivery experience for every mother in Gambia, and acknowledging the lives impacted by maternal mortality.
Editor’s Note: Agie Cole is a sophomore at the University of Washington with a deep commitment to combating maternal mortality in Gambia. Inspired by a sense of moral duty and fueled by a passion for public health, Agie sheds light on the critical issue of maternal deaths in Gambia through this op-ed. As an advocate for change, Agie urges readers to join the collective effort in ensuring every mother has access to the care and support they need during childbirth.