We were fortunate to have Human Rights Watch pay us a visit in November. This visit was part of research that HRW are conducting, looking to examine gaps, challenges and failures in emergency obstetric referrals, as well as health system accountability deficits that contribute to maternal mortality. They are also looking into whether certain groups of women face any specific barriers and whether emergency obstetric care is provided to all women on a non-discriminatory basis.
Their visit was welcomed at the Birth House, where Agnes and Tozama from Human Rights Watch spoke with women from Hamburg village as well as other health care workers. Women spoke about difficulties that they had encountered previously in obtaining transport to hospitals in labour, about having to assist other women in labour as ambulances had failed to arrive, about drunk ambulance staff and tragedies that could have been avoided with better infrastructure in place.
The Busfare Baby concept was discussed and the women were very enthusiastic about the presence of the birth centre and how it is a benefit to the community.
We ended the occasion with a home visit to one of the Busfare Babies who is now 6 months old, and to speak to his mum who knows from personal loss and experience what a difference it can make to have good access to care.
In rural areas many women suffer much loss in and around pregnancy and childbirth and during the first year after birth. Many of the women that I care for have lost a child previously, due to mostly avoidable causes. With HIV affecting at least 30% of the pregnant women in the Hamburg / Bodium area, it is high time we prioritise women and their access to care.
Busfare Babies aims to roll out an effective prevention program and to help to stem the tide of the HIV epidemic in this area, whilst at the same time giving women access to good care particularly during pregnancy and childbirth when it is possible to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. Women having to wait 8 hours for an ambulance and not having anti retro virals in labour significantly increases the risk of the child contracting HIV.
In the words of Nelson Mandela : "We are all affected by the AIDS pandemic. But more than others, this epidemic carries the face of women. For it is women who bear the most significant burden of HIV and AIDS. As daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers, every day they experience and live out the reality of this epidemic…we must proclaim that the women of Africa cannot continue to bear the burden of HIV and AIDS alone. For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation.”