1 in 29

18 year old Chisomo (her name means grace) is expecting her first child. She smiles shyly when you ask how she is feeling, then looks away. You remember the old saying, “She’s walking with one foot in the grave”. Nothing to do with a much loved sit-com in the UK. No, in Malawi it’s a reality for the 1 in 29 mothers who will die of pregnancy-related complications. In the UK, the figure is 1 in 5,600*.

If her luck holds

Chisomo is lucky. She’s walked 17 kilometres to get to the ante-natal clinic and she and her baby are well. She’s probably a little anaemic (a consequence of malaria and poor diet) but the clinic doesn’t have the facilities for blood tests to confirm this. As long as she doesn’t lose a lot of blood during the birth, this may not threaten her life. All being well, she’ll be one of 54% of Malawian mothers who’ll have skilled help when the time comes for her to give birth to her baby. She’ll have that 17 kilometres walk to the health centre when her labour begins. If her family can find the money, she might be able to ride on a bicycle taxi (kabaza) from her village. There are occasional minibuses travelling the main road but they won’t stop for a woman in labour.

If her luck holds, the health centre will have electricity and running water when she arrives. She won’t haemorrhage, she won’t develop an infection or, worse, sepsis. Her labour will not be obstructed, leading to fistula which is common among the other women in her village. Her baby will be healthy. Just in case, her baby will not be given a name until he has survived his first month. Chisomo hopes that she will be one of the 28.

Working to save mothers’ lives

Ammalife works every day to help Chisomo, and other mothers like her, give birth safely. Our researchers, our change makers and our practical help is all for Chisomo, her baby and the thousands of other mothers who deserve the quality of care we’d expect for our own sisters, mothers and ourselves.