Documentary on One

Ten minutes from Kenema

A radio documentary that tells the story of Elayne, Nancy and Sombo, three pregnant women who gave birth in different countries with very different outcomes.

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Documentary maker: Elayne Devlin

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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Ten minutes from Kenema

Elayne is pregnant with her second baby; her first child was born by emergency caesarean section at 33 weeks.

We follow her story as she attends appointments in the National Maternity Hospital, better known as Holles Street in Dublin. Elayne wonders whether she will make it full term and have a safe natural delivery.

In rural Sierra Leone, we meet sixteen year old Nancy who got pregnant with her first baby last year (2009) and gave birth in a local clinic close to Kenema town.

Josephine, the local health aid, assisted with the birth. However, Josephine has very little training to handle complications that may occur in labour.

We join Alice Kabbah from Kenema Hospital as she visits Josephine to investigate how she managed Nancy’s labour, we hear Alice argue with Josephine over what happened to Nancy.

Osman married Sombo two years ago, despite living close to Kenema hospital, Sombo prefers to use Nurse Betty, a traditional birth attendant, to assist with her pregnancy and labour.

Nurse Betty and Osman tell a very different story about what happened to Sombo after her baby was born.

Back in Freetown, we meet Esther, who refuses to attend the maternity hospital despite improvements in the conditions there.

And Dr. Koroma outlines the huge problems facing Sierra Leone as the country struggles to provide a safe environment for pregnant women to give birth.

Childbirth is often referred to as the most natural thing in the world but the reality is when complications occur, medical intervention is required to safe the mother’s life.

In just a few decades, Ireland has dramatically improved safety in childbirth to become the number one safest country to give birth.

At the other end of the spectrum is Sierra Leone. Some statistics give a woman a 1 in 8 chance of dying in childbirth over her lifetime.

Globally, an estimated 500,000 women die every year in childbirth and in developing countries, there has been little improvement in maternal care in decades.

A combination of poor infrastructure, cost, weak and corrupt health systems, traditional beliefs and a lack of political will means women continue to die.

This documentary tells the story of the highs and lows of childbirth and asks why there is so little progress in maternal health in Sierra Leone.

According to UNICEF, the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, with just 1 death per 100,000 live births, is found in Ireland, where a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal mortality is 1 in 47,600.

Mothers are at most at risk in West and Central Africa. Fertility rates are among the highest in the world which in turn exposes women to a greater risk of dying in childbirth. Women in Niger have a lifetime risk of maternal mortality of 1 in 7, with women in Sierra Leone having a lifetime risk of 1 in 8.

Source: UNICEF Progress for Children: A Report Card on Maternal Mortality, No 7, September 2008.

"Ten minutes from Kenema" was funded by the Simon Cumbers Fund

Produced by Elayne Devlin
Sound Supervision by Mark Dwyer
Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien

First broadcast 27th February 2010.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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