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Fear: Becoming a mum in the DRC

Optimistic one day, outraged the next. Today I’m sad. I’ve been reading the World Health Organisation statistics on the Democratic Republic of Congo. They’re not happy reading.

More than one in five children die here before they’re five years old. One woman in every thousand dies giving birth. If a woman gives birth twice, that would put the risk of death at about one in 500. Four times, the average, puts the risk at one in 250…

I have friends who are pregnant at the moment. My colleague here has a daughter. We’ve just been discussing this, and he’s pointed out that the chances of dying are lower in the second, third, and fourth births.

About a fifth of newborn children here die from severe infection. The chances are that the mothers do too, although I can’t find any information on it. Infections happen whenever you give birth in an unclean place.  I’m not sure that risk decreases much over time.

But these are details. The situation is still hideous. Just stop and imagine for a moment the overwhelming fear that goes hand in hand with pregnancy in the face of statistics like that.

So what are we doing about it? At the moment there’s an opportunity to get some funding for emergency primary health care in one of the worst-affected areas of DRC.  Tens of thousands of people are being displaced into Masisi from the south-west because of conflict. At the same time, thousands more are returning home from the north-east. About 20,000 people are meeting in the middle and the pressure on services is just huge.

We want to upgrade the health centres, add clean water and latrines, train the health staff and community health workers, give out mosquito nets and run a measles vaccination campaign.

The deadline’s tomorrow – I’ll let you know if we get funded, when we find out – keep your fingers crossed for us!

And next time I’m going to bring you some happy news of some sort. Promise.

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