The Gambia Women’s Lives Matter, a social women rights group fighting to end maternal deaths, is calling on the government of The Gambia to launch an independent investigation into the causes of maternal deaths in the country.
The group held a peaceful protest Saturday marking their first anniversary regarding the women who lost their lives while giving birth.
The women’s rights group said although the Gambia is a signatory to several conventions promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of women, mothers in the country continued to die in labor under circumstances that could have been averted.
“As an advocacy group, the ‘Gambian Women Lives Matter’ is concerned that despite these commitments and efforts by the government in promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of girls and women, our mothers and sisters continue to die in their numbers during childbirth. Pregnancy has become a life sentence for many when it should be a blessing and joy in the noble task of procreation for the continued survival and existence of the human race on earth. Hence pregnancy is special, and every effort must be made to make it safe, enjoyable, and peaceful.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case for many women in this country. This is a massive cause for concern for us, and we hold that the State is failing in its duty to vigorously and proactively respect, protect and fulfill the rights of these women,” said Sally Tizzy Jobe.
A 21-year-old Kumba Secka lost her mom while giving. Due to the trauma and circumstance of her mom’s death, Kumba’s brother also died three weeks after her mom’s death. Kumba joined the protest. She said she wants her voice to be heard and to see an end to women dying in labor or sick beds.
“I’ll never forget that day. I was on my way to school. I received a call from home that my mom had been taken to the hospital. I immediately rushed to Banjul, but the nurses didn’t allow me to enter and see my mom. I was the only one taking care of my mom after we lost our father six years ago. I was my mom’s first child, but I was denied entry because they said I was small. So I sat outside for almost 5 hours. I later received the news from the doctors and my grandma that my mom passed away,” Kumba recalled.
Madi Jobarbeh, a Human Rights Activist, said no woman should die while giving birth. Madi blames the circumstances as a result of poor leadership and lack of investment in the public health sector
“I think all Gambians must recognize this and rise to address this because it is utterly unnecessary. The Gambia government has all the resources necessary to make childbirth safe for our women. As a husband, as a father of girls, I am scared, shocked, and angry to think that my wife or daughter could be a victim. The Gambia government has a full obligation to make sure that facilities and resources are adequately provided to ensure that our pregnant women and those giving birth to another Gambian do so in peace and safety.”
The Gambia Women’s Lives Matter demands that the government institute a commission of inquiry to publicly investigate all maternal deaths over the last five years to ascertain the reasons and identify measures to address them. It also demands that the State open a public inquiry on the utilization of the funds given to the health sector during COVID-19 to ensure that every butut was well spent in line with the law and where there has been corruption cases mismanagement, necessary measures of accountability are undertaken.
The Gambia Women’s Lives Matter also wants the government to increase the budgetary allocation to the health sector to the 15% agreed in line with the AU Abuja Declaration of 2001.
The women’s rights group asks that the Ministry of Health take responsibility for all babies of mothers who died out of negligence, incompetence, lack of proper infrastructure, or lack of adequate and timely information.
It further demands that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, and the Department of Social Welfare be fully strengthened and empowered to take up their roles more effectively to serve women and girls.
Finally, The Gambia Women’s Lives Matter is calling on the government to eliminate all costs related to antenatal and postnatal care and strengthen the O&G units of all health facilities to ensure availability, access, and quality.