By Landing Ceesay
Co-founder of the ‘Women Lives Matter’ group is shocked by the increase in the number of women who died at childbirth.
“It is unacceptably painful for women to continue dying in labour. From August 2020 to date, we can authoritatively confirm that over 100 women died during child labour within the Greater Banjul Area. Over 80 newly born babies died due to birth complications. In the same vein, in the Basse Area, more than 50 women died due to birth complications,” Mballing Cham said, amid the surge in Gambia’s maternal mortality according to the Gambia Bureau of Statistics [GBoS] 2019-2020 Demographic Health Survey [DHS].
Co-founder on behalf of the group, emphatically called on the government to investigate the causes of the deaths as well as declare it a national health emergency.
“The Gambia Women Lives matter is calling for Action Now!!! We are calling on all stakeholders into Action to save the lives of women and their new-born babies. We call on the Government of the Gambia, stakeholders and the Ministry of Health, and the Government to set up panels and investigate the causes of maternity deaths at the hospitals and declare National Health Emergency,” she emphasised.
Cham insisted that maternal mortality be declared a national health emergency crisis because in Less than 72 hours, three women died in labour in Dippa Kunda, Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital and Bantunding village in the Upper River Region. One of the cases is a mother of twins, added Co-founder.
She alleged that generally, conditions at labour wards are appalling, and most of those women who lost their lives at childbirth did not have access to adequate antenatal care and required facilities for safe delivery, which she described ‘as a national health crisis’.
“We have documented a series of testimonies in pictures, videos, and audio from victims and their families. Every day we continue to receive evidence suggesting that some of these women died because of severe pain they sustain after operations. Most deaths are caused by either lack of blood, lack of medical equipment, wrong diagnosis etc,” she explained.
The Gambia Women Lives Matter is a non-political movement comprising men and women from all walks of life in the Gambia and abroad. They stand for every woman irrespective of their background, social status, or political affiliation with the slogan ‘the lives we save may be that of our own, our partners, or close family members’.
Different Interpretation of the survey
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh in his speech at the launch of the Gambia Bureau of Statistics Demographic and Health Survey 2020 has said that maternal mortality has been actually going down in this country.
“A very important point that has been mentioned in the survey, I’m very sure the statisticians are going to explain in detail on that- which is the reduction of maternal mortality from the 2013 figure. This is contrary to the widely circulated notion that maternal mortality is increasing in the country. But today, we stand here and get to see that maternal mortality has been actually going down in this country. That is a big plus for the people of this country and the government of the Gambia,” said Minister Samateh.
However, Sanna Manjang, the principal statistician at the Gambia Bureau of Statistics while interpreting the statistics of the Demographic and Health Survey 2020 said statistically, as per the survey one cannot say that the maternal mortality ratio has reduced for the past seven years.
“If you look at the difference between [the] 2006- 2013 survey and 2019-20 survey, one cannot say [the] maternal mortality ratio has reduced. Statistically, there is no significant difference between the two surveys. Because the two confidence intervals overlapped, for the 2013 survey it is from 299 to 567 and in 2019-20 the confidence intervals is from 231 to 409.
“We don’t want people to go out there and say maternal mortality has decreased since 2013 because the definitions are different. If you want to do a comparison you have to focus on Pregnancy-related mortality value in this period and 2013 DHS. That’s why in the report we say no trend data is available,” the GBoS principal statistician pointed out.
According to the survey, Maternal Mortality includes deaths of women during pregnancy, delivery, and within 42 days of delivery excluding deaths that were due to accidents or violence. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) for The Gambia is 289 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for the 7-year period before the survey. The confidence interval for the 2019-20 GDHS MMR ranges from 204 to 375 deaths per 100,000 live births.