Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Can Help Mothers & Babies in Africa with Shanti Uganda

During the last days of my pregnancy & into my labour when Sprout was on his way, I never felt afraid. I'd had attentive prenatal care from my well-trained team of midwives, the trip to nearby BC Women's Hospital was quick in a Modo car with my husband & our doula. At the hospital, my midwife Laura & the maternity nurses were able to focus on my care & helped assist me to what I consider to be a fantastic birth experience.

My memories of the last hours of labour are a little fuzzy because I was able to focus inward while I did the work of pushing that baby out. After the birth, my midwife Laura quickly & painlessly gave me a few necessary stitches which dissolved as I healed within days. We chose to stay overnight at the hospital where I was fed, clothed & provided with everything I needed. When we left BC Women's we were feeling nervous about suddenly having an actual baby to take care of, but I was focussed on breastfeeding, sleep, diapers, not risk of infection.

Chances are, if you're a woman who gave birth in North America, you have something in common with me: you received timely care from well-trained professionals & medical intervention when needed. You, like me, probably don't have any friends who died in childbirth.

Let's contrast our experiences to the mothers of Uganda, in rural areas particularly. Desperately short of trained health care professionals, Uganda can offer little prenatal care to most women. Currently many women in the community have no access to medical support when complications arise during the birth process. By the time they make their way on the back of a bumpy motorcycle ride to the closest clinic, it is often too late. 

Don't forget, this is also in the context of the African HIV epidemic. According to the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010, about 6.5% of Uganda's adult population is infected with HIV.  (For comparison Canada, the CIA World Factbook reports a rate of 0.4%.) What's particularly disturbing to me is that 18% of new HIV cases in Uganda are transmitted from mother to child. This is very often preventable with proper medical care.

Now that you know a bit more about what birth is like for many women in Uganda, are you interested in helping to change the situation? Here's how: Become a Birth Partner with Shanti Uganda.

A little background on Shanti Uganda:

Kim Ridgewell & Natalie Angell began with a vision to bring the healing power of yoga & conscious birth to communities experiencing trauma in Uganda. They created Shanti Uganda, beginning with workshops for Ugandan youth, continuing education workshops for midwives & supporting an existing women's income-generating group. Within a year they expanded, establishing a new women's group & graduating 28 HIV-positive women. Between 2008 & 2009, Shanti Uganda ran multiple birth education workshops for midwives, provided over 100 Safe Birth Kits, graduated over 28 HIV positive women from their savings & craft training program as well as establishing a reusable menstrual pad distribution program. In 2009--with the financial support of Off The Mat Into The World--they constructed the Shanti Uganda Birth House & Learning Centre in Nsaasi village where they are now working towards the long term goal of reducing maternal & infant mortality in Uganda.

Shanti Uganda’s Founder & Executive Director Natalie Angell-Besseling has seen the difference that the Birth House makes in the lives of mothers & children. She says, “Over 100 women die giving birth in Uganda every week. Not only is Shanti Uganda providing a safe, empowering environment for women to give birth, but we are defying these statistics & creating a new norm for birthing women in Uganda. Of the over 100 women who have given birth at our centre in our almost two years of operation, 100% have left healthy, happy & supported by our dedicated team of midwives.”

Now you know a little about the organization, here's how you can help: Become a Birth Partner!

With a severe shortage of doctors across Africa & access to care very limited in rural areas, 1 in 22 women die during childbirth. At the Shanti Uganda Birth House & Clinic in the rural Luweero District of Uganda, their dedicated team of six trained Ugandan midwives are the key to improving birth outcomes & reducing maternal & infant mortality rates in Uganda, but they need your help.

The Shanti Uganda Birth Partners program is a monthly donation that is used to provide consistent care to expectant mothers & their babies in rural Uganda throughout pregnancy and birth by providing:

· 24/7 midwifery care
· Pre & post natal nutrition, education & yoga classes
· All lab tests
· Sterile equipment & birth supplies

· $100 per month supports the birth of two babies/month
· $50 per month supports the birth of one baby/month
· $25 per month supports the birth of one baby every two months

Why regular donations?

Becoming a Birth Partner enables Shanti Uganda to provide consistent levels of support and care for pregnant and birthing women in rural Uganda. These regular donations require the least amount of administrative costs, allowing Shanti Uganda to stretch every dollar to help as many women as possible. Monthly donations also help give Shanti Uganda the confidence to invest in long term projects like the Birth House.

Help babies have the best start to life: Become a Birth Partner Today!

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