A baby was born, took one breath, then left the world again. No amount of the midwife pumping his legs up to his ribcage and back, or poking a finger hard and fast at his chest, would bring him back.
His 17-year-old mother lay in pain on the delivery table as her son was wrapped up in a yellow cloth. There was no time even for her to hold him, as another woman was about to give birth. The midwives quickly changed their bloodied robes and gloves. Because there was no other table, the second woman gave birth lying on the floor.
This time, the baby yelled as soon as she came out. She was healthy. While the midwives moved on to the next urgent case, their small delivery room filling up, she spent her first few minutes screaming on the concrete slab.
Welcome to life in Guinea, baby Katherine.
The situation for newborn babies and their mothers in this west African country isdire. Of every 1,000 babies born in Guinea, 123 die before their fifth birthday. For every 100,000 live births, 724 women die. Guinea has the world’s second-highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM), after Somalia – 97% of women between 15 and 49 have been cut. Women who have had FGM are twice as likely to haemorrhage during childbirth, and haemorrhage is the leading cause of mothers dying in Africa.
Medicine is in short supply, and health workers’ salaries rely on selling enough of it. This leads to staff shortages; most health centres have one or two health workers when they should have eight.View External Link