Lets visit the numbers:
The World Health Org has some awesome interactive visualizations of health data, showing maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
Malawi is at 510.
In case you’re wondering, Is that a lot? Compare it to 28 in the U.S., or 6 in Switzerland.
This means that the risk of a woman in Malawi dying from a maternal-related cause during her lifetime is more than 18 times higher than the risk for a woman living in the U.S., and 85 times that for a Swiss woman.
Even compared to its neighboring countries, Malawi is still behind in maternal health care according to these parameters.
Numbers only carry as much meaning as they can be associated with real people and their stories.
On Tuesday I learned about our first deaths reported by our surveillance project. A mother who, for many reasons including lack of funds for transportation, delivered at home alone. She lost both of her twins within a week of their delivery. She was HIV positive but wasn’t taking the drugs because they made her very sick. Our HSA told her about the CLI clinic and she and her husband did come for a different therapy solution that might not cause so much nausea. We’re realizing it also has the potential to connect community members to the clinic’s resources.
The goal of my surveillance project is to document these circumstances under which mothers and their babies don’t survive. We’ll learn more about these twins’ deaths, but there are already so many obvious fixes to dramatically reduce the risk to mother and child. It is disheartening to identify these solutions after it’s too late. But getting data to illustrate these common obstacles to safe obstetric care will help plan for where new resources can make the most impact, identify training needs, and get facilities across the catchment area communicating with each other.
For so many reasons 510 is more than just a number, and I’m feeling very privileged to be doing the tiniest something about it.