Time is right for Canadian engagement in safe motherhood

HAMILTON, ON, Feb. 5 /CNW/ - A Canadian obstetrician/gynecologist working on the front lines of unsafe motherhood for 14 years, says the story of half a million mothers and four million babies dying every year has been grossly underreported and neglected.

Responding from her home in Uganda to news of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent decision to champion the cause through the G8, Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, notes "We've had international emphasis on many worthy causes, but I think it's fair to say that the many needy mothers of the developing world have been dying quietly for far too long. Thanks to the Prime Minister's initiative, this long-time scourge that is killing mothers and leaving terrible consequences for children, communities and nations is finally on the larger political map."

Chamberlain-Froese notes that in a typical North American city, fewer than one in 4,000 women will die from childbirth, but in sub Saharan Africa, the number is one in 16. The main reason is that mothers don't have proper skilled attendants at delivery. "When 15 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide lead to some kind of emergency, the dire results are predictable," she said.

Seventy per cent of the estimated 525,000 mothers who die annually come from just 13 countries. Seven are Africa: Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola. Outside of Africa, they include Pakistan, Indonesia, China, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Chamberlain Froese is founding executive director of Save the Mothers (STM), an international organization that trains professionals from developing countries to improve mother and child health through the students' specific vocation and sphere of influence. An assistant professor at McMaster University, she lives and works eight months a year in Uganda where STM has become the leading advocacy organization for maternal and child care.

"There is a great need for leadership on this issue," says Chamberlain Froese, "not only in and from Canada, but also for leadership within developing countries. This leadership needs to encompass all the social and cultural issues around unsafe motherhood and needs to come from the grassroots level: not just from the healthcare community, but from sectors involving the media, education, politics, law and faith communities."

STM believes no mother or child should die due to pregnancy or childbirth, and to this end it has trained more than 100 Ugandan professionals in its two-year Masters in Public Health Leadership program. The program offers a multi-disciplinary approach, training not only health care leaders to advocate for Uganda's mothers and children - but lawyers, politicians, journalists, educators, community activists and religious leaders. Four Ugandan Members of Parliament have completed the program, and subsequently initiated new legislation to better care for Ugandan mothers and children.

STM's training centre is located at the Uganda Christian University near Uganda's capital of Kampala.

"STM is not providing western aid as such, but giving indigenous Ugandans sustainable tools for lasting change," explains Chamberlain Froese. STM is already expanding into other East African countries and plans to expand into other needy parts of the world, including the subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recognition of her work, in 2009 the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada awarded Chamberlain Froese the prestigious Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award.

She is also the author of Where Have All the Mothers Gone? Stories of courage and hope during childbirth among the world's poorest women.

For more information, including video features, please visit www.savethemothers.org

Dr. Chamberlain Froese returns to her Hamilton base in April, 2010. Photos and telephone interviews with Dr. Chamberlain Froese (from Uganda) are also available.

SOURCE Save the Mothers

For further information: For further information: Patricia Paddey, Phone: (905) 616-1326, Email: patricialp@mac.com

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