African plight hits home

African plight hits home
By Jason Miller, The Intelligencer
Posted 10 days ago

A Belleville filmmaker and an Ottawa physician recently teamed up to capture the plight of Tanzania women who died during childbirth.
Dr. Gail Webber, a Belleville native now residing in Ottawa, is behind a project aimed at providing the crucial medication required to save the lives of hundreds of women living in remote parts of the African country.
Webber and filmmaker Doug Knutson brought their campaign to Victoria Avenue Baptist Church, Sunday, showcasing video evidence of their recent trip to Sharati Tanzania, an isolated community where dozens of women die yearly due to PPH (post partum haemorrhage - bleeding after childbirth).
Webber attributed the alarming infant mortality and maternal death rates to the lack of access to proper health facilities and medication required to prevent the chances of infection and PPH.
Webber has garnered $100,000 in federal grants to fund the initiative, dubbed the Saving Mothers Project.
“The purpose of the project is to distribute two medications to women living at home, which they can take, so that they won't die from bleeding and infection,” Webber said.
In Tanzania, roughly one woman dies every hour from birthing complications, a stark contrast to Canada, where about 42 women die from similar causes yearly.
The rate of home births in Tanzania stand at about 50 per cent, in some areas like Sharati the number is closer to 60 per cent.
“There has been no decrease in the maternal mortality rate over the last 10 years,” she said.
Research teams on the ground in Sharati will continue collecting data by surveying relatives of deceased women over the next six months. The teams will also commence the distribution of the medication to dozens of women in rural communities.
“I'm applying for more money to do a bigger project in a bigger area (of Tanzania),” she said.
Webber, a global health researcher, collaborated with Knutson to capture her January trip to the rural outpost in the Eastern Africa country.
“The roads are atrocious,” he recalled about the route women travel to medical centres. “I wanted to capture that whole experience.”
Churchgoer Karen Corbett credited Knutson for successfully achieving his objective by portraying an emotionally-charged story with insightful images.
Corbett said the video presentation changed her outlook on the struggles of Tanzania women seeking the simple privilege of a safe child delivery.
“They suffer so much more than we do here,” she said. “They are struggling to come into the 21st century of healthcare. I'm very supportive of our taxpayers dollars going toward something like that.”