Safiatou (not her real name), 26 years old, married her cousin Hamidou when she was 14. They lived in a village in Burkina Faso, about 60 miles south of Ouagadougou, where they farmed livestock. By 2007, the family had four children. Safiatou got pregnant.
Safiatou’s husband told Amnesty International:
The day of her delivery, she was in good health and worked all afternoon as usual without any problem. She prepared tô [a local dish made from maize flour] for her children and went to get the hay for the animals. In the evening, when her labor began, she left for her mother’s home. Her mother came to warn me that she was not well, that we had to take her to the clinic. I do not have a motorcycle, so I had to go and get one. That made us lose time.
Hamidou added that he “did not know that she should have delivered at the clinic. When I came to fetch her at her mother’s house, she had lost consciousness.”
Hamidou borrowed a small motorcycle from his neighbor, but it didn’t have any fuel. The closest gas station was six miles away. Safiatou ended up delivering at home, but she suffered placental retention and serious hemorrhaging. Her husband asked a friend to help him take Safiatou to the local health center, but she passed away on the motorcycle on the way there — two and a half miles away from the facility.
Safiatou left five boys — ages 11, nine, seven and four, and the newborn baby.
The story of Safiatou is one of the 50 cases that Amnesty International’s researchers investigated in-depth for Giving Life, Risking Death, the report released today about women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Burkina Faso. Maternal mortality claims the lives of more than 2,000 women in Burkina Faso every year. Some — like Safiatou — die because they cannot reach the health facilities they need. Others die because their relatives cannot pay the fees once they get to the facilities. Others die because of shortages – of blood, drugs, equipment or qualified medical staff. Maternal mortality takes its heaviest toll on women living in the greatest poverty, and those with the least education. With the report, Amnesty International is calling for better information and services for family planning, for the removal of financial barriers to maternal health care and other improvements in access to care.
Read more about the report — and take action today! Tell Burkina Faso President Blaise Compraoré to fund maternal health equitably and eliminate barriers to care. Amnesty International Burkina Faso is leading the campaigning on this report — we in the United States can support them by demonstrating international attention and helping generate global pressure.
Starting tomorrow, through February 9, a campaign caravan will tour Burkina Faso to launch Amnesty International’s campaign to end maternal mortality in the country, provide information to spark debate, and encourage women to claim their right to maternal health. Immediately after that, Claudio Cordone, AI’s interim secretary general, will meet with the country’s top officials to report on the caravan and discuss government plans to address maternal mortality. AI will be blogging from the caravan — and we’ll post material here as it comes in.