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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 13:30 GMT
Help for childbirth deaths battle
Angela Gorman
Mrs Gorman has worked as a nurse for over 30 years
A Cardiff nurse is taking a delegation to Chad in central Africa to help tackle the high numbers of maternal deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.

Angela Gorman works in an intensive care unit for newborn babies at the University Hospital of Wales.

She is going to help a doctor fighting to end preventable deaths in pregnancy, and will meet members of government.

Mrs Gorman got involved after seeing a BBC programme detailing the shocking rate of childbirth deaths in Chad.

One pregnant woman in every 11 dies in childbirth there. The rate in the UK is one in 5,000. Many newborn babies also die through lack of medical supplies.

A BBC Panorama programme broadcast in the summer highlighted the work of obstetrician Dr Grace Kodindo, who works in the capital N'Djamena and is trying to improve the facilities for women in her country despite a lack of funding and facilities.

Baby in UK maternity unit (generic)
Babies are dying for the want of one simple piece of equipment
Angela Gorman

An appeal has been set up in the UK to support Dr Kodindo's work, entitled "Hope for Grace Kodindo".

Mrs Gorman said: "I sat watching the programme on the evening of my daughter's 34th birthday.

"As I sat there I thought back to how I felt all those years ago. In my local maternity hospital, there was no luxury, no music or pretty pictures on the walls, but it was safe... I felt safe.

"We'd just had a major reorganisation of maternity services in Cardiff which was undertaken because of staff shortages, and was therefore presenting a risk to mothers and babies.

"Watching the programme, I felt that the word 'risk' took on a whole new meaning."

She was horrified at the deaths caused by the lack of simple drugs and medical equipment routinely available in the west.

Initially Mrs Gorman, who is also the chair of Cardiff and Vale health branch of Unison, the public sector union, proposed to members they should adopt the appeal as a branch good cause.

Dr Grace Kodindo
Dr Grace Kodindo has already received equipment at the hospital

The branch agreed to donate 5,000 and to follow the appeal's progress to ensure the money would reach Dr Kodindo.

She decided it would be a good idea to see first-hand what is happening in Chad, and organised the trip along with fellow supporters of Dr Kodindo, who include a midwife and a pharmacist.

"Along with meeting the ministers in Chad, I will be undertaking the training of hospital staff in neonatal resuscitation," she said.

"Many babies in this country need a little "kick start" when they are born which requires specific skills and basic equipment such as an Ambubag (a device held over the patient's mouth and nose to help them breathe).

"I understand that Dr Grace has no Ambubags and so babies are dying for the want of one simple piece of equipment.

"I have sent four on ahead already. I am also taking very basic written instructions on neonatal resuscitation, in both English and French.

"Our instructions for this country contain very complex procedures which require more complex equipment and drugs, followed by transfer to a neonatal unit, which of course they don't have.

"So, very difficult decisions will have to be made. If babies don't respond immediately, or if the baby is clearly premature we will have no option other than to wrap him/her up and give the baby to mum."

Can we stop maternal deaths?
14 Sep 05 |  Africa


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