After a long, hazardous journey over rough terrain, a young mother relies on the kindness of strangers to reach a safe place to deliver her baby. It’s a familiar story enacted in Nativity plays across the UK. But for Mary and Joseph Chimwanza in modern-day Malawi, it was their family’s reality.
When her labour pains started at midnight, Mary Chimwanza had to travel by bicycle rather than on a donkey, but she still faced dangers and harsh weather. Not to mention ‘three wise men’ although these turned out to be members of a Maternity Worldwide sponsored Participatory Learning Action group rather than Magi.
In Mary’s own words:
‘On our way to hospital, we met some people who were coming from the beer hole. We become scared and because of my condition, we decided to face them and explained our story – that we were rushing to the hospital for delivery. The men then decided that to escort us to the health centre. Later in our discussions with the men, we discovered that two of them belonged to the Participatory Learning Action (PLA) group in our village.’
‘My condition become worse when it started to rain and it was cold. One of the men who joined us had a raincoat which he gave me and we had to seek shelter in the nearby village until the rain became less heavy. When the rain stopped, we continued our journey to the hospital where we were assisted quickly and it did not take long before I delivered our baby, Earnest.’
In low-income countries, drawing parallels with the Christmas story is still too easy.
- At the time of the Nativity, only the very rich sought medical help in childbirth.
Today in sub-Saharan Africa roughly 50% of mothers give birth without the help of a midwife.
- Many women still have to travel unacceptable distances on foot in the last stages of pregnancy or are carried over rough roads while in labour.
- In the Bible, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable with no electricity or clean running water.
Many clinics are still lacking even these basic facilities.
We are working so women and girls in low-income countries can access the high-quality maternal health care they need to be able to give birth safely. We train and employ local midwives so medical intervention during childbirth is available for a woman when she needs it. Our projects aim to to give access to better local healthcare facilities so no woman has to face a painful journey during labour, and we work to provide well-equipped, clean environments where skilled staff can to deliver a baby safely.
Please help us this Christmas
This year, we are asking our generous supporters, if they can, to commit to donating £27 to our Christmas 2019 Appeal. We have chosen this sum because it’s less than 1% of what a typical UK family will spend in the run-up to the festive season.