Covering ground in Kisozi, Uganda.
By Guest Blogger Posted on September 01, 2012 Comments: (12)
For years, the term “marathon labor” has held a very literal meaning for the women of Kisozi, Uganda.
“26 miles is the distance pregnant women have to travel – on foot or motorbike – to the nearest hospital when there are complications during labor,” explains Esther Haaisma, Kisozi village representative and Director of Hope Alive Uganda, a Dutch-Ugandan NGO.
In the past few years, HAU has funded construction of a critically under-resourced maternity clinic in Kisozi village. “Our staff are equipped to deal with routine pregnancy issues,” explains Haaisma. “But non-routine issues or complications necessitate a marathon journey to Kampala.”
I’ve looked at this road on Google-Earth. It’s rough, desperately dry, and visibly littered with holes, vehicles and livestock. I’m not surprised to learn that the staggering 52 mile round trip to hospital – undertaken equally perilously on foot or taxi – claims an unthinkable number of lives each year. The unrelenting heat, hazardous road conditions, and critically, the precipitating medical complication - an obstructed labor, for example, or placental hemorrhage – wreak a desperate toll on the already-weakened mother and child. “Many women die at the side of the road,” says Haaisma. “Many others simply become too weak to survive hospital treatment.”
Now, thanks to a unique collaboration between Hope Alive Uganda and Journey of Solutions, a Rochester, New York-based NGO, Haaisma hopes that fewer women will have to undertake this devastating journey.
“Nabuur volunteer Kirsti Shields helped us connect with Dr Ernani Sadural, a US-based OB/GYN who through his non-profit organization LIG Global travels to under-served areas to provide medical/surgical treatments,” explains Haaisma. “Recognizing the profound need for a preferential option in Kisozi – a way of managing routine pregnancy complications locally - Dr Sadural quickly offered to visit Kisozi in person to provide critical obstetric training to our Ugandan-trained clinic staff.“
Dr Sadural’s visit is scheduled for October. Travelling with a US-based nurse practitioner, Ernani will train Ugandan practioners in procedures such as Cesarean Sections that will ultimately save lives and keep more of Kisozi’s women off the dreaded Road of Bones. He’ll also educate the clinic’s midwives and physician about cervical cancer screening.
Excitement in Kisozi is high in the run-up to Ernani’s trip. “It’s important for our midwives and physicians to receive this valuable training,” explains Haaisma. “It’s going to help us save a lot of lives.”
As Director, however, Haaisma must also keep an eye on practicalities. “This training is absolutely critical,” report Haaisma, “but now we need to fund-raise aggressively so that we can equip the clinic properly and create a safe, appropriate environment in which to conduct the new techniques.”
Haaisma’s wish-list includes necessary medical-surgical items as well as basics such as routine pharmaceuticals but it also reveals the clinic’s more elementary needs. “We have a desperate need for beds here,” explains Haaisma. “Currently laboring women lie on improvised mattresses on the floor, but if we’re to increase the quality and comfort of care for our mothers, we need beds and dividing curtains for the ward.”
Recognizing the need to properly outfit the clinic before Dr Sadural’s arrival, Journey of Solutions has posted a special link on its webpage (www.journeyofsolutions.com) to enable people to donate monies to help fund the beds – which will be built locally at a low cost - $33 each, according to Haaisma, with an additional $100 needed to furnish bedding, mattresses and mosquito nets.
“We’re hoping to get ten beds before Dr Sadural’s visit in October,” says Haaisma. “After that, our goal is to get a vehicle that we can use for transporting women to hospital for those cases where we can’t manage their needs in-house.”
There’s a lot of fund-raising ground to cover before the maternity clinic becomes self-sustaining but the project’s already passed some important milestones. Dr Sadural’s upcoming visit promises to be the next big mile marker. “If we can get the clinic furnished appropriately and master these life-saving procedures, we’ll be well on our way,” says Haaisma.
Check back in with the Nabuur Blog in October for an updated account of Dr Sadural’s visit to Kisozi village.