Dear Friends,

It has been a sincere pleasure to lead Save the Mothers for the past three years. Working to end preventable maternal and child death with my colleagues and the Master of Public Health Leadership Alumni was very satisfying. Now my journey with STM has come to an end. I will join my family in Ghana, West Africa to continue to work on the continent advocating for fair access to health services for all. Especially for vulnerable populations.

I want to share with you a few of the lessons learned and memories made that will always stay with me. Maternal and child health outcomes continue to be worrying. While we have made much progress over the last 10 years, we still see over 200,000 women die each year. Most of these deaths are preventable. We also see a staggering 2.7 million newborns die each year within their first year of life. We know that access to skilled attendants at birth is limited. In many situations, access to basic life-saving services remains critical for marginalized populations. Seeing these numbers, and thinking of each life lost can be extremely overwhelming. We continue to see many weak health systems unable to cope with demands and the many gaps. We must continue to fight for improvements in maternal and child health outcomes. We will identify the gaps, and use the best evidence to address the needs. But we must also highlight and encourage progress and celebrate even small change.  It is equally important.

Deborah Mensah and Dr. Miriam receive a report from the in-charge nurse at a Mother Baby Friendly Hospital

An important lesson for me is that we must celebrate small victories. When Dr. Miriam and I visited a health facility in Uganda, we met a 20-year old mother and her husband in the critical care unit. The young mother had complications during her birth and had required a spinal tap. This procedure had gone horribly wrong. It resulted in this poor young woman being completely paralyzed. The couple also lost their newborn. It was a heart-wrenching scenario. What stayed with us was the actions of the young father. He had begged the midwives to be able to stay on the ward with his wife to help care for her– something that was not normally done or encouraged. We marveled at the way he cared for her and was hopeful that she would be able to gain some capacity to speak one day.

With tears in our eyes, we returned to our vehicle to head back to Mukono. Dr. Miriam had whispered something to one of our interns, Daniel, who ran back into the hospital for a moment. I quietly asked Daniel what had happened. He told me that Dr. Miriam had asked him to give some of her personal funds to the young dad to encourage him for the way in which he was advocating for his wife in the midst of the agony and loss. These funds would help him access food and other necessities he might need while at the hospital.

This small act was so touching. It was a reminder that when we see people doing the right thing– trying to make a change in their own way– we need to stop, encourage, and celebrate this progress. A little celebration does not prevent us from losing sight of the bigger picture and the work that still needs to be done.

The good news for me is that Dr. Miriam is only a WhatsApp message away. I will be able to access her wisdom and insights whenever I need them during the next phase of my journey working in Global Health and Development.

Wherever my career path and feet may take me, I know I am going to be more equipped and passionate as a result of the lessons learned during my time at Save the Mothers. I also know that with Dr. Miriam’s leadership in East Africa, Save the Mothers will continue to grow as an organization. I am excited to see the impact that your support will have on mothers and babies in Uganda and beyond.

Deborah Mensah greets a healthy newborn at one of our Mother Baby Friendly Hospitals.

As I close this chapter, my mind is still on mothers. Often, what they need to survive and thrive is just that little bit of support from someone they can trust. For a mother, a trained midwife or doctor, an alumnus advocating for improved maternal health policies, or a supportive partner and community can make all the difference. Support is what many of us need as we journey through life. I am grateful to take with me the support of many with whom I interacted at Save the Mothers.

I want to thank the Board of Directors, staff, partners, donors, dedicated volunteers, and colleagues for entrusting me with the leadership of Save the Mothers. You have made my time so meaningful. Without your dedication, we could not have continued this important work. We would not have weathered the ongoing storm that is COVID-19. I am leaving the organization feeling grateful that you made this one of the most generous years for Christmas giving- even during a pandemic. Thank you for your partnership, generous donations, prayers, and unwavering support.

I want to mention the Save the Mothers Team here in Canada. Thank you, Rebecca, Jacob, and Janet (who is managing the day-to-day for Save the Mothers in Canada with the support of the Board of Directors). Save the Mothers is truly blessed to have each one of your skills, passion, and expertise. I have been so blessed to have had the opportunity to work alongside you all. Janet will be the point person for inquiries. You can reach her at manager@savethemothers.org or by phone: 905-828-7283.

I pray for continued success and impact for this tiny little organization that punches far above its weight. Together with you, Save the Mothers brings systemic change for mothers and babies in East Africa and beyond.

With Affection,

 

Deborah Mensah