Child birth risky in much of Africa

Westerners associate Sierra Leone with blood diamonds and a vicious civil war that has killed thousands of people.

Theresa Benjamin addresses an audience at the First Baptist Church in Red Deer.

Theresa Benjamin addresses an audience at the First Baptist Church in Red Deer.

Westerners associate Sierra Leone with blood diamonds and a vicious civil war that has killed thousands of people.

While a peace agreement was signed in 2002, there’s another kind of scourge sweeping Sierra Leone — one in eight women in that African country are dying in childbirth.

Bev Carrick said the scope of the tragedy is put into perspective when considering that only one in 11,000 women die while giving birth in Canada.

To stop the pregnant women of Sierra Leone routinely dying of bleeding, high blood pressure and infection, Carrick, executive-director of CAUSE Canada (which stands for Christian Aid in Under-assisted Societies Everywhere) spoke to two Red Deer church groups this weekend about the need to construct more birthing huts in the country.

These simple four-room structures with cement floors and metal roofs, can be built and furnished for $3,000 each, said Carrick, of Canmore.

They would be staffed by a nurse and midwives who would assess the progress of high-risk pregnancies, and would prevent “hundreds and hundreds of women from dying one of the most painful of deaths,” added Carrick, who believes Canadians should care because the world is shrinking.

“We are our brothers’ keepers, our sisters’ keepers, and these women, daughters and sisters are only a plane ride away.”

Theresa Benjamin, a midwife from Sierra Leone, spoke to local groups at Sunnybrook United Church and First Baptist Church on Saturday and Sunday of the pain she feels whenever she hears of another childbirth tragedy.

“A midwife is like a mother, and there’s no mother who likes to see a child die or get sick,” Benjamin said in an earlier interview.

In Sierra Leone, some cultural factors add to birthing problems.

Many girls, married too young, get pregnant at 13 or 14, Benjamin said, “They are not fully developed. Their bones are not strong.”

Carrick said a circumcision practice known as female genital mutilation, is still commonly done to pubescent girls. The smaller genital opening and scarring that result cause more tearing and bleeding during childbirth.

While some tribal chiefs have outlawed this on girls younger than 18 and older girls who don’t give permission, Carrick said the practice persists because some consider uncircumcised girls to be unmarriageable.

But the biggest factor is the distance to health care facilities. Benjamin said women in remote villages can’t get medical help quickly once problems become apparent. That’s why community birthing huts are so valuable. Women with high risk pregnancies would be spent by a midwife to a birthing hut a few weeks before their delivery. These women could bring their young children with them.

If a nurse monitoring their progress decides a C-section is necessary, a vehicle will transport the women to hospital.

Benjamin said someone with a uterine rupture can survive when a hospital is nearby, but “travelling in a hammock to a health care centre can cause more damage.”

The midwife is thankful Canadians care about women in her country. “Any dollars will go to a worthy cause, and the Lord will pay them back for it,” she said. Donations can be made on-line at www.cause.ca or by calling 1-888-552-2873.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

Kris Sturgess with Calgary Ghostbusters. (Photo from GoFundMe)
GoFundMe account salutes Red Deer prop builder

Kris Sturgess died unexpectedly April 28

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, in Montreal, Thursday, July 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

Lille's Burak Yilmaz, center, reacts with teammates after scoring during their French League One soccer match between Lille and Nice in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Saturday May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Jean Carlo Salas of Costa Rica vies for the ball with Canada's Ian Bennett (right) during a CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CONCACAF-Norvin Mendoza MANDATORY CREDIT
Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson leaves the ice after defeating China at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 7, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

Most Read