Dead Mums Don’t Cry [Film]
Marrwah Ahmadzai recently watched Dead Mums Don’t Cry, a BBC Panorama production from 2005 showcasing a week in obstetrician Grace Kodindo’s clinic in Chad. Read Marrwah’s review below then check out more Books and Films.
Being pregnant in Chad is a dangerous undertaking; at the time of filming of this documentary, women faced a 1/11 lifetime risk of pregnancy-related death in Chad compared to a 1/5000 risk if they lived in Britain. Dead Mums Don’t Cry reveals the stifling injustice of these disparities by plunging the viewer into the world of Dr Grace Kodindo, an obstetrician working in N’djamena. Her work is a constant battle against pre-eclampsia, septic abortions, obstructed labour, haemorrhage and infection. Throughout the programme, recurrent heart-wrenching themes surface: functioning facilities are scarce and inaccessible to most women and essential equipment and drugs are unavailable. Hence women suffer at home, seeking help only when their condition is critical and irreversible damage has been inflicted.
The first woman we meet has suffered a miscarriage. Healthcare in Chad is not free and her family cannot afford the medical equipment needed. The hospital lacks essential supplies like clean sheets, oxygen or anaesthetic to reduce her suffering. Elsewhere in the hospital, a 16 year old girl is convulsing through an eclamptic fit. She can be treated with magnesium sulphate but this is not available anywhere in Chad. Women in rural villages fare worse as they rely on traditional birth-attendants who are untrained and equipped only with their bare hands. Grace reflects on the volume of women dying unnoticed and forgotten. The weight of these stark truths is crushing and the viewer witnesses Grace becoming disillusioned by them: ‘I am asking myself what I am doing here when I cannot even use my knowledge to save a life.’
However, the programme also provides a glimmer of hope. Grace is taken to Honduras, where resilient obstetrician, Dr Cipriano Ochoa, has galvanised the government into making maternal health a focus of national policy. As such, antenatal programmes are readily available, women are continuously cared for throughout pregnancy and preventable deaths are avoided. Hence maternal mortality in Honduras has reduced by 40% in seven years. The resounding message is that even poor countries can prevent pregnancy-related deaths, and that it is our global responsibility as part of the Millennium Development Goals.
Dead Mums Don’t Cry is a fascinating production that puts faces to statistics that are otherwise difficult to appreciate. It also inspires through the quiet determination and efforts of Grace that are so refreshing against the bleak backdrop of her clinic. Despite being nearly ten years old, the messages are still resounding. Worth the watch!