The labour and delivery ward at Mityana Hospital now ensures patient privacy, thanks to curtains donated by Save the Mothers. The curtains were presented and installed by Global Health Corps Fellows Meredith Hutchins and Ivan Mwase.
What do curtains have to do with maternal health?
It’s a fair question to ask. When women are dying of preventable causes in childbirth, why would we waste our time installing flowery privacy curtains? Our answer is simple: Save the Mothers believes that all women deserve a dignified pregnancy and childbirth, regardless of their geography. Providing privacy curtains in an open labour ward is just one of the small, cost-effective projects we can implement in our MBFHI partner health facilities to bring dignity to women during a process where the odds may already be stacked against them (360/100,000 women die in childbirth every year in Uganda). But that’s just the start.
Our Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative works with 10 health facilities around Uganda to bring quality, dignified care to women and their babies. This means training midwives on improving their customer care as well as understanding that the health workers themselves need support: whether through simple incentives like providing flasks (so they can have a much-needed tea-break) or donating life-saving Caesarian instruments so they can operate on mothers in critical condition quickly and safely. Dignified care goes beyond what it takes to save a mother’s life. We know that small, tangible projects like providing privacy curtains can begin to change the systems that fail so many impoverished and vulnerable women. When we work to restore dignity to childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa, we are considering all of the ways in which a mother needs support. Privacy curtains provide a space for women to receive attentive care from midwives and support from their families and spouses.
Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to install privacy curtains in the labour suite at Mityana General Hospital this week. The head midwife at Mityana, Sister Deborah, commented that “most people come and see that women are giving birth in an open room. They are shocked at the conditions but then just take photos [and do not return]. STM sees the problem and delivers a solution.” In working toward providing a more mother-baby friendly environment, we know that sometimes the simplest solutions have the greatest impact.
So, actually, curtains have everything to do with maternal health. They are a step toward a complete model of dignified, quality care in pregnancy and childbirth.