A while back I posted something on Sierra Leone’s shocking maternal mortality stats. This week TIME magazine has this sad piece on Mamma Sessay, an 18 year old Sierra Leonean woman who died during childbirth. The images could have been a little bit more respectful (there is a little too much poorism involved for my liking) but the message gets home: Giving birth is still a most dangerous undertaking for the vast majority of women on the Continent.
Kudos to outfits like this one that work to save the lives of women on the Continent. Stories like Mamma’s are a grim reminder of how much still needs to be done to lower maternal mortality rates in the less developed regions of the world. Educating more women is the obvious long-term solution – statistics abound on how education decreases fertility and maternal mortality rates while increasing the quality of childcare. More urgently, however, is the need to improve pre-natal care and eradicate anachronistic cultural practices that allow men to marry 14 year old girls (the late Mamma was 14 when she got married).
A lot of money has been poured in Africa (to use a Kenyan phrase) since the 1960s. Most of it has gone down the drain without much impact. If a tenth of the aid effort in Africa were effective things would be very different. Instead you have a cacophony of aid effort without much coordination. Yes there are the many hospitals, schools and business projects that have improved millions of livelihoods, and we applaud them. But there are also bizarre projects – like giving rape victims cameras to record their ordeals in the Congo or this crazy idea to send a million shirts to Africa. As Aid Watch aptly puts it, a lot of aid is never about what the people in this mythical place called Africa need but what people want to give – and oftentimes what they want to give is a function of their warped notion of what life is like on the Continent.
And in other news, Sierra Leone has seen the light. As I noted here two years ago, the country’s HDI indicators belong in a time long gone. It is therefore encouraging that the Sierra Leoneans have decided to take HDI matters seriously.