By: Dr. Irene Mbugua
If you want to see the face of strength and resilience, look into the face of an African mother. I am proud to say that I am an African mother of three boys. My journey through pregnancy and childbirth was one of the most joyful experiences of my life, but for some of my fellow African mothers, it’s the most challenging.
Globally, more than 1.5 million children die each year from birth complications either before or after childbirth, because mothers and their children do not have access to healthcare. During my pregnancy, I worked with a healthcare provider on preparing a birthing plan, and all my children were born in a hospital with the help of a skilled birth attendant. Sadly, this is considered a ‘luxury’ to many women in East Africa. In Kenya, World Vision found that more than 70 percent of women in the Bamba region deliver at home, because most of the women had to walk more than 3 miles to reach the nearest health facility. For the women who do travel to a clinic, there are often too few health care workers or basic drugs and medical supplies.
No mother should die in the process of giving life, and no child should die before he or she has a chance at life. My role as a mother is what motivates my role as maternal and child health worker at World Vision where I work with communities providing healthcare education, training community healthworkers and helping them advocate for healthcare services.
Empowering women to use their voices is key. By enabling women in the communities to be vocal about their health needs, I’ve seen communities mobilize to demand action, and our government and community leaders are realizing the need to address these challenges and strengthen health and community systems. This week we are joining millions of others across to globe for the Child Health Now Global Week of Action to say: Together we can end child preventable deaths.
Mothers in Africa are very resilient. We need fellow mothers to walk beside us on this journey. I have felt the joy of holding my children in my arms, breastfeeding them and guiding them through life. This kind of joy should be experienced by every woman, and that’s why I’m raising my hand to say “I want every child to survive to 5.”
Dr. Irene Mbugua is Project Coordinator – Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Project for World Vision in East Africa
Photo credit: mother and child courtesy of World Vision