Every week around women in Ghana die because of comp

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Every week around women in Ghana die because of comp




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Every week, around 75 women in Ghana die because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths are completely preventable. There aren’t enough qualified health workers. Health facilities are often far from women’s homes. Pregnant women don’t know they can get free care. Poorer communities rely on traditional, often unqualified, care. The government in Ghana needs to invest more to improve and expand government health services and increase the number of health workers, so more women receive good-quality, free health

care, especially in rural areas. The UK government needs to fulfil its commitment to give 0.7% of its income to overseas aid, so that Ghana and other poor countries can invest in free maternal health care – and save women’s lives.
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Fees for health care are a life or death issue for millions of people in poor countries. In 2008, the government in Ghana made health care free for all pregnant women – a decision made possible in part by UK aid and pressure from people in the UK and Ghana. In the first year, at least 433,000 more women received life-saving care. The

benefits of free health care are not shared equally across Ghana. One of the reasons is that not all women are aware of their right to free care. And this is made worse by low literacy levels and limited health education. Women are still dying during childbirth in unacceptable numbers. The problem is most acute in three northern regions of Ghana. Access to care here is much lower than the national average due to a critical shortage of qualified health workers. Less than half the population live within an hour’s travel of a hospital or clinic.** Women in the poorest and most rural areas in

Ghana are at the greatest risk. Further challenges here include: a lack of facilities within reach of women’s homes; a lack of health workers if women do get to facilities; and a lack of medicines to save lives if emergency strikes. Some facilities even lack electricity and clean water. Sometimes, women don’t seek hospital care because they prefer to use traditional birth attendants. But these unqualified workers often don’t have the skills to save lives when complications arise. That’s why Oxfam works with traditional birth attendants and community volunteers across Ghana. With

support, they can inform women of their right to free care, better understand the warning signs of when women must seek qualified care, and understand their own limitations in caring for pregnant women. * 2005 data from ‘State of the World’s Children’, UNICEF, 2010. ** ‘Free Universal Health Care in Ghana: Achieving a Shared Goal’, Oxfam et al, 2011. Sources: ‘State of the World’s Children’, UNICEF, 2011; WHO statistics (whosis) 2011.
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Though she’s illiterate, Selina knows that maternal health care in Ghana is free. So, when her contractions started, she and

her best friend Sarah made their way to Korle Bu Hospital in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. But she came unprepared. In Ghana there are things you need to bring with you when you give birth, or otherwise you must pay for them. These include a bottle of disinfectant, a hair net and a blanket to cover the bed. To pay for these, Sarah left Selina at hospital, and returned to their village to ask her family for money. With the money secured, and with a nurse and midwife by her side, Selina gave birth to a little girl. She’s called Savina, after her grandmother. After the birth, mum and

daughter rested for 24 hours in a ‘lying-in’ ward, and the midwife gave Selina advice on caring for her baby. Then, with friends and family at their side, Selina and Savina returned home – healthy and happy, having received free, professional care from trained health workers. When she went into labour with her third child, a traditional birth attendant took her 4km to the nearest health centre, so she could receive free health care from qualified professionals. “It was safer for me than at home, she says. Adumporka brought blankets, soap and a bottle of disinfectant, but spent the

first few hours on the floor due to a lack of beds. When the time came to give birth, she was moved to a bed, and was tended to by a trained midwife and nurse. The birth went smoothly, and Adumporka gave birth to a beautiful boy. A couple of hours later, mother and baby had to leave the health centre as there was no space to rest. Her husband took his new family home on the back of his motorbike, with his boy wrapped tightly in a shawl. This is another example of free health care protecting new mums and their babies – but it also shows that much more investment is needed. Many women in

remote areas are still not getting the health care they desperately need.
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She’s the only midwife for 16,000 people, and covers three community clinics on her trusty motorbike. Across Ghana, nearly half of all women give birth without assistance from a qualified health worker like Cecilia. She works around the clock to support pregnant women, new mums and babies. Her training means she can help deliver babies safely, provide prenatal and postnatal care, and give family planning advice. And her motorbike means she’s able to visit women at home if they can’t get to a

clinic. “It’s a 24-hour service,” she says with a smile. Most of the time, Cecilia is based at Wuru community clinic, built in 2010. She says it wouldn’t be here were it not for the government’s free health care initiative. “We should have more free services,” she says. “Mothers can come to access health care, so that they will not die. Despite being overworked, Cecilia loves her job. Her hope for Ghana is simple: “zero maternal mortality”. It’s a reminder that her patients are among the lucky ones. That means: more trained health workers on decent salaries, especially in

rural areas; more clinics in easy reach of women’s homes; and a reliable supply of medicines. The UK government has promised to increase the amount it spends on international aid by 2013. This is a real chance for more women to receive life-saving health care during pregnancy. The best kind of aid is long-term and predictable, and contributes directly to government budgets so that developing countries like Ghana can use it to pay for health workers, medicines and hospitals. At this critical moment, politicians of all parties need to know how important keeping the aid promise is.
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10 11 If you’re angry about women in Ghana dying in childbirth, get others fired up too. Tell your friends, family and colleagues. The more people who know about what’s going on, the more chance there is to influence things for the better. We’ve put together a photo exhibition kit, which explains the situation in Ghana using the case studies of Adumporka and Selina (see pages 7-8). Just borrow the photo boards from our regional offices, and put them up in your local caffi, library or hospital waiting room. You could hold an opening event, and invite local MPs and journalists.

Use the six-minute film of Cecilia to show people how trained midwives can help save lives. Cecilia’s story is an inspiring example of what can happen in Ghana with the right investment. Show the DVD as part of your exhibition, or during a talk or presentation. We need as many people as possible to write to their MP about this. (You can use pre-written postcards available from your local Oxfam office.) We want MPs of all parties to support the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. And we want Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary, to ensure the UK

continues to provide long-term, predictable aid direct to government budgets – to help save women’s lives. Write to your local newspaper or radio station, and explain why this issue is important to you. Invite journalists to your exhibition to spread the word further still. Oxfam is one of hundreds of organisations campaigning about maternal health care. Support the White Ribbon Alliance at
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