Somalia: one of the toughest places to give birth in the world
By:Mohamed A. Gaas
A tribute to Amran Mahad, lead actress in Maalmo Dhaama Maanta (A Better Life than Today), an interactive drama helping young people to talk about both the opportunities and the obstacles that they face in Somalia. She died 3 November 2016 following complications during childbirth.
Amran Mahad was known to audiences as ‘Ugasso’, a strong, ambitious young woman determined to make the world a better place. The character she played – beloved by Maalmo Dhaama Maanta’s listeners – was similar to Amran herself. A household name in Somalia, her beguiling voice floating through the airwaves, Amran captivated and inspired listeners every week.
It was with great joy that we heard the news that our newly-wedded colleague had given birth to a healthy baby boy via Caesarean section. The joy did not last long.
When I received the devastating news that my friend and colleague had passed away after complications following childbirth, a great wave of sadness washed over me. Amran had been with her baby for just 18 days.
Giving birth shouldn’t be a matter of life and death. Tragically, for many expectant mothers in Somalia, it is.
In Somalia, one woman out of every 12 dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. The leading causes of maternal deaths – hemorrhage (bleeding), infection, unsafe abortion, high blood pressure, seizures and obstructed labour – conspire to make Somalia one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the world. Most of these deaths are avoidable if only the right medical help is available.
I was reminded too, of the importance of our own maternal health projects, particularly our former radio drama and discussion show Tiraarka Qoyska (Pillars of the Family) where listeners could obtain expert health advice. We found that powerful and emotional story lines in the drama – in which a character died – motivated pregnant women and mothers to adopt safer health practices. In short, fictional deaths were helping to save real lives.
It’s heartbreaking that Amran’s death is all too real.
Our beautiful and talented actress won the hearts of everyone she met. She’ll be profoundly missed.