Part 4: Reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria with technology
It was in the spring of 2008 that documentary filmmaker Dawn Sinclair Shapiro learned about a low-tech device known as the neoprene anti-shock garment (NASG). This garment is designed to keep women alive after childbirth, treating shock by preventing further bleeding in women with obstetric hemorrhage, which is the leading cause of maternal death in the developing world.
“Pathfinder International, an INGO, had implemented the NASG across Nigeria as part of their Continuum of Care project, which trains midwives on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of post partum hemorrhage,” she says.
And that was just the hook Sinclair Shapiro needed for a story.
“Lengthy discussions with in-country staff and a thorough vetting on both sides convinced me to go to Nigeria. There is a vanguard of doctors and midwives across Nigeria working to keep mothers alive and to train the next generation of healthcare providers. They were incredibly free of agendas and worked tirelessly to inform and educate me while tending to their patients.”
Access to better medical resources – whether this comes in the shape of these anti-shock garments or blood banking or physician training – is of primary concern for nations like Nigeria. And Sinclair Shapiro shows a glimpse of this promise in filming The Edge of Joy.
“One of our central characters, professor Oladosu Ojengbede, spends about 60 percent of his time conducting research and providing basic reproductive health services to families in rural villages. As a physician-scientist he is educating the next generation of ob-gyns at the Center for Population and Reproductive Health at University College Hospital, Ibadan, where he is the director.”
More than half the births in Nigeria take place outside a medical facility, she notes, so Ojengbede brings his residents and students into rural communities where many of the births take place.
Ojengbede’s work on the ground in these rural villages with high maternal mortality rates sometimes takes an average three to five years to yield results, based on baseline surveys and observational studies. In addition to skills-based training for birth attendants, Sinclair Shapiro says, community health seminars and workshops for women and men are conducted regularly.
“His initiatives put communities at the center of their health, telling me once, ‘Sometimes the only thing a rural village has going for it is its desire to not lose any more women in childbirth.’”