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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 June, 2005, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Dead mums don't cry
Steve Bradshaw
Steve Bradshaw, Panorama reporter
Explains why the Panorama team looking at the MDGs decided to concentrate on maternal mortality

Grace Kodindo (left) and Steve Bradshaw
Panorama followed Grace Kodindo as she tries to reduce maternal mortality in Chad
So who's going to play Grace in the Hollywood version, a friend in Washington e-mailed - not entirely in jest. Hotel Rwanda after all has broken new ground. Maybe there is an audience for the story of an African woman saving lives too. If so an ER devoted to childbirth - the setting of our Panorama Dead Mums Don't Cry - seems like the ideal place to set it.

In fact the contrary notion - that our African ER would be unwatchable - almost put us off making the film. "Women who die in childbirth don't usually look like that," Ghana's Professor Fred Sai once said of a relatively serene TV image. No, these are often traumatic deaths, we'd read in the academic literature. And we were also worried about intruding into moments of joy and grief that more conventionally remain private.

But with a sensitive camerawoman, Grace's help, and an incredibly friendly response from the women of Chad (and generally their menfolk too), we were able to spend a week filming more or less at liberty. And, I hope, disclosing a few truths about why over half a million women die unnecessarily every year in childbirth and pregnancy - almost all in the world's poorer countries.

Cutting maternal mortality is Millennium Development Goal Five. Why select this goal? Because it's the one where the gap between rich and poor countries is starkest. Because it's the goal that was judged to be easiest to achieve in a recent poll of European citizens (Eurobarometer 2004). Because it's the one where we know least about what's really going on. And because it's at the heart of crucial debates that are currently being neglected.

Aid, trade and debt relief (all components of MDG 8, the Partnership Goal) have been catapulted up the agenda. AIDS and even the less fashionable scourge of malaria need no introduction.

But at the heart of the MDGs are a raft of more subtle, personal issues. They're not quite so user-friendly to media folk who want to finger point at individuals or have an old-fashioned "ding-dong". They also raise questions for some of our African partners in the MDGs - not just about the familiar narratives of governance and corruption, but also about more cultural and quotidian issues.

They are about the female side of the MDGs - empowering women, primary education (more girls in school), maternal and infant mortality, and maybe too about reproductive health (to some the missing MDG). The message from Kevin Watkins - who's monitoring the MDGs for the UN's Human Development Report - is that women and children are coming last. And if that's what's happening on the battlefield, where better to start with a story from the front line?

Panorama's "Dead mum's don't cry" was broadcast on Sunday 26 June 2005 at 2215 BST on BBC One. It is also available online and on demand, following transmission, via the Panorama website.


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