Esther Madudu

Esther Madudu

Ugandan midwife Esther Madudu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her involvement in saving the lives of thousands of mothers and babies in the country.

Madudu, 32, is an enrolled midwife employed by the government of Uganda. She has also become the poster girl for the ‘Stand Up for African Mothers’ campaign which aims to reduce maternal mortality rates and ensure that all pregnant women throughout Africa have access to trained midwives.

The campaign was spearheaded by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) which helps to train midwives and improve maternity services on the continent.

Madudu works in Atiriri Health Centre IV in the Katine sub-county in Eastern Uganda. A health centre IV is a mini hospital, and is ranked one level below a district hospital. Atiriri has 34 beds and sees up to 100 out-patients each day, including referrals.

The centre has one doctor working there, and was previously only staffed by two clinical officers and three midwives.

In sub-Saharan Africa, AMREF says 200,000 women die every year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth – that’s 60 per cent of the global total.

It also aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015 to equip them with the necessary skills to maintain good health. It launched an online petition to symbolically nominate Madudu as a candidate for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

In a typical month, Madudu will deliver between 45-50 babies and she often handles very complex and difficult deliveries in a centre which suffers from a shortage of electricity and medication.

The electricity supply to the centre was cut by the Lord’s Resistance Army during an attack on Katine nine years ago; and has yet to be restored. The solar panels on the roof are also broken.

Madudu explained that in many cases, mothers have no choice but to give birth without medication – because of the lack of resources.

“You know ‘verbocain’ is the only drug we can give them in Africa,” she told CNN ironically, “Verbocain’ -you verbally talk to the mother; giving her just consoling words and patting her, rubbing her back, until she gives birth.”

Often babies will be delivered in the dark with the only light emanating from a mobile phone. Madudu and her fellow midwives regularly have to help mothers give birth using the light cast by mobile phones, held in their mouths to ensure the beams are directed to the right place.

Madudu, who is herself a mother of two is so passionate about her work that she’ll often work 24 hour shifts and has opted to live two hours away from her family to be able to cater to the women that need her.

“I opted to give my children to my mother, not because I don’t love them. I love my children but because I could not have time for them, to cook for them, take care of them, because of my tight schedule of duties,” she told reporters at CNN.

Abenet Berhanu, AMREF country director for Uganda said that the number of women dying during childbirth in the country was “unacceptably high”.

He added: “She has been working extra hours; she is passionate in handling mothers. This [the nomination] is in recognition for all midwives who have been working under challenging circumstances.”

Madudu knows more than anyone how painful it can be to lose a baby during or shortly after giving birth. Shortly after she began her career as a midwife, she lost her own baby during childbirth.

This served to fuel her passion for ensuring that mothers get the right treatment during and after pregnancy.

Her aim is to raise awareness about the difficulties that women face while giving birth in Africa and she has travelled all over the world to promote her campaign.

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