Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Idolizing Africa- Part 1

I've been silently reading and pondering many things lately. One of those things happens to be the glorification of African mothering. The more research I do, the more I feel this needs to be broken up into a series. There are too many issues to touch on in one post.

We see photos of these women breastfeeding and wearing their babies, people commend them and give praise, oftentimes saying things about natural mothering. They see women in Africa that give birth outside of hospitals, using that to say how safe and beautiful and natural that birth is. Guess what?? We are privileged as hell to live in countries that have access to things African mothers don't. To pick up on this and hold it up as how mothering should be, to me, is incredibly racist and classist. Did you know that many organizations are trying to help with healthcare initiatives?? How many in this camp know about various morbidity and mortality rates? Do they care, at all?? If you want to hold this culture up as to how things should be, perhaps you should know exactly how things are for these mothers.

According to Life For African Mothers, 287,000 women died in pregnancy and childbirth in 2010. Holy crap! Nearly all could of been prevented. The top 4 causes of death are Postpartum Hemorrhage,  Pre-Eclampsia and Eclampsia, Infection, and Unsafe Abortion. This angers me, as a woman, to know that these women are dying from these things in numbers like these. I am completely flabbergasted. The WHO says that in developing countries, the maternal mortality rate is 240/100,000 while it is 16/100,000 in developed countries there.  One of the largest issues in the developing African countries is lack of care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. These women who die, their babies are 10X more likely to die within the first two years (UNICEF). Half of them don't even have access to a skilled birth attendant. Safe Motherhood should be a priority here!

Mortality is not the only thing we should know about. We should also know about childbirth complications and morbidity. The WHO estimates that over 2 million women in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from Obstetric Fistula. These are caused by prolonged and obstructed labors. Although all women are at risk, the highest at risk are female genital mutilation victims, underage child brides, and teens.

For African babies, the numbers are staggering. More than 3 million babies die every year and 2.6 million are stillborn.  According to World Birth Aid, in central Africa, the neonatal mortality rate is 74/1000. Can you imagine?? Sub-Saharan Africa itself accounts for 33% of global neonatal deaths. Most of these deaths occur during labor, delivery, or within 48 hours.

The discrepancies between countries is rather eye opening as well. I will be looking at different countries and addressing other various issues that influence maternal health. Right now, I just want the bare bones information out there. The more I read, the angrier I feel at the plight of these women. It truly disgusts me to know of their plight and then look at women around us that are angry because birth has "become medicalized". Well, as we can see, there is a reason for that. As privileged women complain and cry trauma because they had a c-section that saved either their or their babies lives, there are African women enduring days of labor only to give birth to a dead baby while suffering disability due to the birth or enduring a long labor, giving birth, then succumbing to blood loss hours later while all anyone can do is watch as she slowly slips away. I see Human Rights conferences held, but the main issue is protecting crappy midwives. When will this camp look at these African countries and say "These women matter". They have a right to health care and a right to SURVIVE. Nobody should have to die a preventable death due to lack of resources. So, the next time you see someone glorifying birth in Africa, lets shed some light on what it really means to be a pregnant African woman.
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