Because of my work in women’s health, I know that both my mother and daughter are proud of me, and it creates a strong sense of union among us.
My mother always wanted to be a doctor, but when she was growing up on the Black Sea Coast in Turkey, her father – who loved her very much – did not allow her to go to another city to continue her education. During that time, it was not appropriate for good families to send their daughters away to school; it could ruin the family reputation. So after middle school my mother went to a vocational high school where she learned sewing, a favorable skill to help women become good candidates for marriage and good housewives. (Her skills at tailoring actually came in handy later in life, as she made all of the family’s clothing when we were younger.)
My mother was born and raised in Sinop, Turkey’s mythical place of the Amazons, female warriors. She liked to think herself an Amazon woman.
Worldwide, mothers and their babies are dying—the greatest injustice is we have the solutions today to save them. Dr. Ndola Prata travels the globe going the last mile to reach women with essential life-saving medicines. Her conviction is borne out of experience.
"When I was a young doctor in rural Angola, my home country," says Prata, "I watched women bleed to death in my clinic, not because I didn’t know how to treat them, but because I didn’t have the supplies and medicines I needed to do so. I still have nightmares."
Prata is a pioneer in the education of communities about misoprostol, a simple and well-tested medicine used to protect against the leading cause of maternal death, postpartum bleeding, and one of several overlooked health solutions that the United Nations’ (UN) Commission on Life-saving Commodities for Women and Children is considering this month during the General Assembly meeting in New York.
Somewhere around the world, every two minutes a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth. Her community is left grieving, her family motherless, and her child facing a ten-fold greater risk of dying before their fifth birthday. Nearly all of these tragedies play out in developing countries – a woman often dies from a preventable cause by virtue of where she lives.
“You’re going to Burundi.” I remember at the time thinking, “Awesome! Looking forward to it! …Um…Where’s Burundi?” I consider myself to be pretty adept at geography. I knew Burundi was in Africa somewhere; nevertheless, I quickly began my pre-trip homework, attempting to soak up as much Burundian culture, history and politics as my web browser would allow me.
As part of this travel research, I studied up on Burundi’s history, both fascinating (kingdoms, royal scandals, bounty derived from fertile lands), and horrifying (a civil war mirroring Rwanda’s genocide but lasting more than a decade), and the fact that it’s one of the most densely populated countries in Africa (at approximately the size of Maryland, it has almost twice the amount of inhabitants -10.6 million people!). And with most women giving birth to six children in their lifetime, the risk of dying due to complications in pregnancy or childbirth is the fifth highest in the world.
And of course I researched the cuisine. As a lactose intolerant vegetarian with a strong passion for food, this is always at the top of my pre-departure checklist.
I couldn’t help but think it was a bit insincere. I was the employee writing about Africa, talking intimately about the women who have benefitted from our programs, yet I had never visited the region where my work is so closely connected. I sat in the airport in Tanzania, waiting for my return flight home with a grin on my face. Well, that was amazing, was all I could think.
Deep down my inner child expected Africa would bring with it a few talking animals and beautiful sunsets, you know, the cinematic kind. But to my disappointment no singing lions ever appeared. Instead, I left Tanzania for lack-of-a-better-word “stoked” on the work of VSI. (Sorry, my California roots are showing.)
The most impressionable leg of my trip happened in the first few days:
We traveled a little over an hour to the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I had hoped for some inspirational, authentic African music to accompany my travels, you know, drums and some tribal chanting, but I settled for the Celine Dion and Beyoncé emanating from the speakers of the driver’s jeep. One bumpy dirt road after another, I was grateful for the driver and the guide who accompanied us as they meticulously avoided potholes and near run-ins with large trucks and motorcycles.
From 4-6 May, the Asia Regional Meeting on Interventions for Impact in Essential Obstetric and Newborn Care was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Organized by the Government of Bangladesh, MCHIP, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported Oxytocin Initiative, in collaboration with Women Deliver, VSI, FIGO, and ICM, this three-day meeting focused on postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), pre-eclampsia/eclampsia (PE/E) and other aspects of maternal and newborn health.
Dr. Nuriye Hodoglugil, VSI Associate Medical Director, was asked to blog during the Asia Regional Meeting. Dr. Nuriye's entry was the first in a series of blogs from conference attendees.
Though I have been in this field for over 20 years, I first became interested in women’s health and family planning when I prepared a presentation about contraceptive methods during medical school in the early 1990s. When I found out that simple information and contraceptive methods were not available to many women, it triggered a very strong response in me. It felt very unfair.
- Three Generations 2013.05.10
- The United Nations: Prioritizing medicines for mother and baby 2012.09.28
- Santé maternelle à la façon Burundaise: the opportunity of misoprostol 2012.09.13
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