the drama of maternal mortality in Senegal

Resumption of the trial of six midwives in Louga on Thursday, May 5, 2022, after the hearing was postponed to April 27. They are charged with “failure to help a person in danger” after a young woman in her thirties died during childbirth at the regional hospital: Astou Sokhna, nine months pregnant, who died in the maternity ward in early April with her baby, after long hours of suffering . His family condemns medical “negligence”. A drama that aroused enormous emotions in the country, and dropped the word about women’s mortality in connection with their pregnancy or childbirth.

From our special correspondent in Louga,

“There are thousands of Astou Sokhna in Senegal”, “this affair is just the tip of the iceberg”, confirms a member of the collective citizen baptized Patients in Danger, created after the death of the young woman in Luga. Several weeks after the controversy began, Astou Sokhna’s family, in particular her husband Modou Mboup, and her mother, Maïmouna Ba, “have not yet had time to mourn,” said one of their lawyers, Maître Patrick Kabou.

Petitions, demonstrations, avalanches of testimonies of similar cases or complications for pregnant women, especially in rural areas, Aïda Mbaye, of the Association of Senegalese Jurists, rose as the case gained momentum. “Senegal’s health system seems to have problems with motherhood, and more generally with women,” she says angrily. “You do not hear this type of problem in other health care services: poor reception or carelessness leading to death. It’s time for this to end. We are not only condemning what happened in the Astou Sokhna case, we are fighting the health care system in terms of pregnancy, motherhood, care for women in this country. We ask to go beyond disciplinary action, with criminal sanctions. “

Midwives prosecuted “feel victimized” Six midwives from Louga Hospital are therefore prosecuted in this case. Four of them are in custody, two others on bail. But in their defense, they can not be held responsible for Astou Sokhna’s death. “They do not understand”, the facts they are accused of, “they feel victims”, confirms their master lawyer Abou Abdoul Daff. For him, it is not acceptable to believe that there would be no help for a person in danger in a health structure, once the person has been received, they have been installed, a diagnosis has been made and the protocol has been followed. They did everything they could. They even ask us, “Can we avoid death?” According to the lawyer, “this puts back on the table the question of the obligation of funds or results. This has started to spread in the country: Every time there is a death in a health care facility, people talk about non-assistance or negligence, it is not possible! ”, He concludes.

Coincidence: the trial takes place on 5 may, International Day of the Midwife. The National Association of State Midwives of Senegal is mobilized to support its colleagues. According to its president, they should not be the “sacrificial lamb”. Several unions for health care workers have launched a new strike slogan to show their solidarity.

For the government, “not to generalize” On the part of the authorities, the Minister of Health had on April 14 reported a “inevitable maternal death”. Before the press on Thursday, April 28, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr called so as not to generalize. “In this case, at the time of the patient’s care, there was no systemic dysfunction in the state of health,” assured the minister, who highlighted the progress made in recent years. “We need to avoid the non-quality tree hiding the forest of achievement,” he hammered.

On the maternal mortality indicator in Senegal, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr indicates that the proportion was 392 deaths per 100,000 live births four years ago, 236 deaths two years ago, and “currently we stand at about 156 deaths per 100,000 live births. We are first in UEMOA “, insisted the Minister of Health, while realizing that there were still” things to do “. Efforts in particular to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births until 2030.

►Read also: Senegal: feelings after the death of a pregnant woman at Louga Hospital

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