The Gambian Maternal Health System Broken Into Pieces.
By: Dawda Nenegalleh Jallow
As improving maternal health was one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), during the advent of the second republic, government tried so hard to improve the maternal care and during that time, according to WHO estimates, the maternal mortality rate decreased from 730/100000 live births in 2001 to 430/100000 in 2012.
In December 2016, Gambians both home and abroad thought it was the turning point for The Gambia; most people thought democracy and the rule of law will shine once again and the standard of living will improve significantly but at this moment, there is so much hypocrisy in the country and as a result, the healthcare system is deteriorating like never before.
On a daily basis, across the entire length and breadth of the country, families are saddened by the tragic and painful deaths of women either during pregnancy or childbirth and most of these deaths happen at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, the main referral hospital in the country.
According to a retrospective study published in October, 2017 on available data from 2007 to 2014 at the EFSTH , the main causes of these maternal deaths are haemorrhage, hypertensive diseases and sepsis and to be honest, all these maternal deaths can be prevented by the adequate provision of blood, anti-hypertensive drugs and antibiotics respectively.
Yesterday, whilst standing and watching a friend, colleague and sister grasping for oxygen and students of The Gambia College School of Public Health lined up to donate blood, my heart sank and joints felt so weak. In the early hours of Saturday morning, I got a call that she has passed away. I felt so devastated but also felt sorry for every woman of childbearing age in The Gambia because the system has failed them woefully.
At this juncture, I’m imploring on the government and other development partners to assess the situation at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital and help these women because the maternal mortality rate is increasing by the day.
Few days ago, we have seen the closure of the ASB German Clinic in Latrikunda German due to increasing maternal deaths and as the main referral hospital in the country, we are not expecting the EFSTH to be closed but instead, should we expect some changes at the Ministry of Health or replacement of some personnel at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital? If no, is this a selective justice?