Business, Finance & Economics

Saving mothers' lives in Ghana

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Mary Issaka (Image courtesy of Jhpiego)

This story was originally reported by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

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Rural Ghana is a challenging place to deliver a child. There are about two paved roads in the country, and there is only one national ambulance for each region of the country. Even a person is lucky enough to have access to an ambulance, there are many places where ambulances simply can't reach. In the midst of these challenging conditions, Mary Issaka has single-handedly delivered 2,240 babies since 2003.

This year, Issaka was honored by the Johns Hopkins affiliated group Jhpiego as the Midwife of the Year because of her efforts delivering babies, improving health care, and preventing teenage pregnancy throughout Ghana.

"In all my life I did not think anyone knew what I was doing outside of my village," Issaka said after receiving the award. "I did not think anyone really cared about someone working in such a remote place. I didn't think the world would care about what I was doing."

When trucks can't reach a woman in labor, Issaka told PRI's The World that she and her fellow midwives use motorcycles. When motorcycles can't reach, she will walk to the village by foot, bring the mother to the motorcycle, and escort her to a place where she can safely deliver the child.

Getting mothers to health care facilities is just one issue that Issaka deals with. She also believes that health care professionals have to change people's minds. In some situation, Issaka says problems arise with "family members also making decisions for the woman before she goes to the health facility."

Some people think it's brave for women to deliver inside of their homes, instead of going to a health care facility. It's considered a good thing, but it's also dangerous. According to Issaka, "we need them to understand that it is not good for you to say you are brave and then at the end of the day you lose your life or your lose your baby."

Throughout her work, Jhpiego reports that Issaka was committed to involving the community, listening to patients' concerns, and delivering on promises. She also remains optimistic about the future. She told The World, "if we have enough midwives and they are able to send them to all the communities and they are nearer to the community members, we can actually help to save so many lives."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."