Addressing Maternal Health Through the Media
One of my friends told me recently that I should have given birth before I started working with the Maternal Health Channel (MHC), because now I know too many things that can go wrong in the Ghanaian health system. He thought this will make me too afraid of negative consequences when I get pregnant. This started a really interesting debate on the value of information; of course knowledge could really spark fear, but why do we not appreciate the power information gives us to make the right choices and demand appropriate services? Why would someone rather opine that when it comes to pregnancy and health in general, ignorance is bliss?
Approximately 4,000 women die annually from pregnancy related complications in Ghana. Additionally, over 200,000 women are disabled every year from said complications. Most of these deaths occur from very preventable causes! The Maternal Health Channel is underlined by a cardinal belief that no woman should give up her life whilst performing her natural function of giving life. Based on our research, maternal deaths is not merely the result of medical inadequacies but also behavioural and attitudinal challenges that need to be addressed. The hospitals face many issues including a lack of vital facilities such as like blood banks and blood products and ventilators, as well as lack of skilled health personnel.
Maternal deaths are also underpinned by what the medical experts call ‘the three delays’; the delay in making the decision to leave home for the hospital when complications set in, ( maybe because the family’s decision maker – husband, father, mother – is not immediately available), the delay in reaching the hospital (lack of transportation, road systems in poor conditions, etc) and the delay at the health facility itself (too many people all seeking urgent attention, negligent attitudes of health personnel, and lack of skilled personnel etc). Many health facilities across Ghana also do not have policies that promote effective healthcare delivery, especially for women.
MHC’s first 2 programmes, Charity’s Story Part 1 and Charity’s Story Part 2, make fitting illustrations of the points above. MHC featured Charity Agbemave from Keta in the Volta Region who lived in Nigeria with her husband and 5 children. She got pregnant again, and when she started to labour, she took the longest journey of her life with her husband, crossing 3 international borders from Nigeria to reach Keta. The Keta Municipal Hospital, her final destination, has only 2 doctors who attend to approximately 29,000 people. Dr Amoateng in an interview mentioned that he usually works 24 hours 7 days a week. There is also one nurse for every 1,500 patients. The hospital’s meagre resources are under severe pressure. According to Dr. Amoateng’s account, she started to bleed during her journey, and by the time she arrived at the hospital she was bleeding profusely. The hospital has no ventilator and so couldn’t ventilate her. Precious hours were spent looking for volunteers in the community to donate blood as the hospital has no blood bank. Neither was there an ambulance to refer her to another hospital. In a heartbreaking end, 39 years old Charity Agbemave lost her life.
The Roving Film Crew goes around the country to document real life stories about women from all regions of Ghana. Their stories are told through our documentary-styled programmes. The retelling of these events are partly dramatized to reenact the tragedies faced by our real-life heroes. MHC’s variety of stories are truly representative of all parts of Ghana. The crew has travelled down dusty meandering roads to Kpalbe in the Northern Region, coasted down the swift highways of the western corridor to the Trauma and Specialist Hospital at Winneba, and cruised to the middle of the Amansuri Lagoon to explore maternal health care in Nzulezo. The richly diverse sights of Ghanaian societies provide a colourful backdrop to the portrayal of Ghana’s stark and morbid reality of the nation’s maternal mortality.
Looking for solutions, it is instructive to quote the late Major Quashigah, former Minister for Health who said, "The paradox is that we know what is killing them (women) and we know what to do." How do we do it then? As a communication for social change and development project, the Maternal Health Channel provides a national public platform to investigate the "how" in a methodical and productive way. We believe that the first step towards finding lasting solutions is to start a positive dialogue involving all voices from across the social spectrum.
MHC is on GTV every Thursday at 8pm, and at TV3 on Fridays at 8.30pm. We are also on Joy 99.7FM on Saturdays at 5pm, and also on http://www.myjoyonline.com/services/radio/#. Every Wednesday at 9am, catch us live on Radio XYZ on 93.1 as well as on http://edition.radioxyzonline.com/content/radio. You can also go to our Facebook and Twitter pages to get involved, facebook.com/mhcghana, twitter.com/mhcghana.
We can all be change makers in the fight against maternal mortality. One woman’s life lost is the loss of a daughter, a sister, an aunt, sometimes a mother, and in most cases a crucial breadwinner.