Hope and Healing

The importance of maternal health.

March 08, 2012General

Last year I was visiting our community based rehabilitation (CBR) program in Lusaka Zambia. On one day we saw six clients – each a child with their mother, each with cerebral palsy. I watched how these mothers were taught to care for their children. They helped their child through exercises that encouraged mobility. They worked to get them to sit, kneel, even crawl – if possible.

In each case the CBR worker read out to us the case history, recorded in their file. In all six cases two factors were consistent. The first was that the mother did not have any access to pre-natal health care. These women were young and living in poverty. Pre-natal health care cost too much – it was a luxury that they could not afford.

The second commonality was an extremely long and difficult birth.

I know that these are linked – having no health care means that there is no trained personnel to help when the birth process is prolonged.

It’s really not surprising that in each of these cases the children were born with a disability – CP.

This is not a scientific study and so I can’t prove that difficult births and the absence of prenatal health care led to CP in each of these cases. However, we do know that there is a correlation tendency, and we see this pattern often in our CBR programs. We also know that other disabilities, like fistula for mothers, are caused by difficult births and not having access to adequate health care.

Maternal health is important.

We know that maternal health prevents disabilities. We also know that prevention is easier and more cost effective than setting up programs for people with disabilities. That’s not even taking into consideration the incalculable costs to families of break ups, lack of education for children, marginalization, loss of income, and even loss of life.

Maternal health is important.

Women are the foundation of so many communities. Studies have shown that working with women, increasing their income and education, is the best way to positively impact a community. That is not only in Africa or Latin America – but in Canada as well. Any such program directed towards women will fall short if there is inadequate health care.

Maternal health is important.

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s day. What better way to honour women around the world than to ensure they have adequate maternal health.

Because…. maternal health is important.