Britain’s shortage of midwives is put into stark perspective by this powerful glimpse of life in the Central African Republic
There was a news story about the shortage of midwives in the UK this week. Only one area has the required number – one for every 28 births taking place in a year. While you don’t expect health standards in very poor countries to be comparable, this Unreported World: The Jungle Midwife (Channel 4) puts figure that into stark perspective.
Seyi Rhodes’s powerful film takes us to the Central African Republic, where Olga Yetikoua is one of “only a few midwives” in a country the size of France. There may be only a little over 4 million inhabitants, but it’s very hard to get around; years of civil war have left the infrastructure in tatters and malaria is rampant. Not to mention that Joseph’s Kony’s violent cult, the Lord’s Resistance Army, operates there, abducting men and boys (The film Kony 2012 made a lot of noise but failed to bring Kony to account.). Most women give birth with no medical help, and one in 27 die while doing so.
So here’s this poor woman Véronique, who’s having trouble giving birth to twins: the head of one has appeared at the same time as the feet of the other. She’s lucky, though. Olga’s there, and rushes Véronique to hospital in Bria. You might not recognise it as a hospital: there is no electricity, or clean water. Just the one doctor, too. Then, halfway through, the army, who were the rebels until the coup, rock up with a man they’ve beaten and who has a hole in his head.
Never mind him, what about the twins? He’s fine. He? And the other? There is no other, it was just one, he was coming out in the pike position. Ow! This other woman thought she had one, but in fact there are two. Without scans, there’s no way of knowing. One isn’t breathing. He is now! But he wouldn’t be, would never have taken a single breath, if Olga hadn’t been around.
You’d definitely be much better off in the East End of London in the 1950s, on Call the Midwife. As for everyone on One Born Every Minute, just be very thankful you’re in Leeds General Infirmary, not the Central African Republic.