By Aminata E. Sanyang
Maternal mortality is a global menace that has shoved mothers to succumb to the cold hands of death. Childbirth has become the most brutal battle for Gambian mothers, plunged in fear of giving birth in the eon of a failed medical system.
In the past years, The Gambia has recorded many maternal deaths due to the unavailability of primary healthcare delivery to curtail challenges.
Many hinged this predicament on the lack of a sophisticated health system, a desolate medical catastrophe disregarded by the Government, and failing to shift meaningful investments to vital issues such as reforming the healthcare system to efficiently deliver healthcare services to all Gambians and annihilate grave medical problems such as maternal mortality.
Many accused health workers of negligence which has caused severe fatalities, but these claims are debunked by some healthcare workers, claiming the unavailability of resources contributes to unqualified healthcare workers in certain hospitals.
Nurses are concerned about the misinformation that many continue to spread on social media concerning maternal deaths, with unconfirmed narrations composed to escalate tension within the public.
The primary caregivers believed many maternal death stories online are twisted to instigate hatred towards the health workers.
Bintou Jallow lost her sister during labor, with the mother and the baby dying after severe complications. “The doctor told us she lacked blood, and we toiled and moiled to get someone to donate her. But it was too late before we could get a donor; she experienced severe complications and died afterward,” Bintou told The Alkamba Times.
Lack of blood in hospitals dominates the concerns raised by the public, and questions continue to coil around blood being donated by the armed forces and other blood donors to save lives. As the scarcity of blood rockets, doubts are awakened about hospitals’ equitable delivery of blood to patients.
The recent protest by the nurses signals the frustration faced by the caregivers. It is a new showcase of a frail medical system that continues to diminish daily. Health workers are said to continuously lack medical supplies to execute their duties while being underpaid.
The high rate of maternal deaths in the Gambia triggered the formation of a movement dubbed Gambian Women’s Lives Matter, a social movement meant to save Gambian women from dying while giving life.
Speaking to The Alkamba Times, Mballing Cham from the Gambian Women’s Lives Matter movement believes the healthcare system is unfunded and expensive. She called on the Government to invest in this area since the lack of standard facilities is claiming these women’s lives.
“From our record, we have cases where women die due to sustained complications from Caesarean Surgery (C-Section) or lack of blood. In my view, these are avoidable circumstances,” said Mballing Cham.
Having been recently rejected a permit to hold a protest and later granted access, the Gambian Women’s Lives Matter movement unveiled efforts invested in collaborating with Government. Still, the Government turned unresponsive amid facing accusations of political affiliations.
Lamin Fatty, whose wife is heavily pregnant, is facing enormous worries. “I might lose my wife if I take her to the hospital. Would she receive the necessary care to deliver safely?” he lamented.
Omar Malleh Ceesay, a trained nurse and the Public Relations Officer of Bundung Maternal and Child Health Hospital revealed to The Alkamba Times that negligence might play a role. Still, most maternal deaths are beyond the nurses and doctors.
” Unavailability of blood and gynae emergencies are beyond nurses and doctors most of the time. Likewise, he said that late bookings for antenatal services and poor nutritional status of women before and during pregnancy are mostly issues beyond healthcare workers,” he said.
According to Dr. Mustapha Bittaye, Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, there has been a significant decrease in maternal mortality compared to the past years, adding that the Ministry is ensuring the numbers of trained nurses are increased amid providing ambulances to ease mobility for pregnant women and people in urgent need of healthcare.
Whereas resources are lacking in hospitals, emphasis is placed on women reporting late to health facilities. However, according to health workers, this stance could result in severe complications during childbirth.
While they advised pregnant women to take healthcare seriously and seek medical services early to avoid hitches, many doctors and nurses have the utmost passion for the job, ready to save lives and deliver complete healthcare services.
It is now for Government to invest sufficiently in the healthcare system. It’s now a collective task to save Gambian women from Maternal Mortality.