Washington Post Highlights the Tragedy of Maternal Death

14 October 2008
Author: UNFPA

Slide Show: 'Oh My Darling, Goodbye', Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS—On the heels of UNFPA’s recent efforts to promote maternal health at the High-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals has come increased media exposure to the plight of mothers in developing countries. Prominent print and photo coverage in the 10 October 2008 edition of the Washington Post highlights the perils of poor access to emergency obstetric care and limited health-care resources to the lives of women and children.

Focusing on the African nation of Sierra Leone, the Post published a front page article entitled, ‘A Mother’s Final Look at Life’, tracing the story of a young mother, Fatmata Jalloh, whose death during childbirth was directly related to her environment. She bled to death due to a lack of education on pre-natal care, a slow trip to the hospital, and the scarce availability of medical personnel and equipment.

Perhaps most strikingly, the article reports that at dilapidated city hospitals in Freetown, patients like Fatmata are expected to provide their own medical supplies such as: intravenous fluids and bags, catheters, and rubber gloves. Prior to her death even the blood for Fatama’s treatment was purchased from a black marketer on the street.

In a companion piece, ‘In Sierra Leone, Every Pregnancy is a Chance of Dying’, the Post recounts the similarly tragic story of Saio Marah, who gave birth to a stillborn baby of 6.5 pounds after carrying the child to term. Again, a delay in seeking out a remote, and poorly equipped medical facility within the rural back-roads of Sierra Leone, was the primary reason for the otherwise healthy infant’s death.

Thoraya A. Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, was interviewed extensively for “A Mother’s Final Look At Life’, and she highlighted the dangerous lack of attention given to maternal death. “Maternal death is almost invisible death,” she said.

Journalists also visited the Fund’s office in Sierra Leone while reporting the story.

Also included as part of the series is a photo essay, which provides harrowing visual insights into the calamity of maternal and infant mortality in Sierra Leone, and the grisly conditions women are forced to endure.

Sierra Leone
Population : 7.9 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 38%
Girls 37%

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