Mercy and Joseph Kasabola are expecting their fifth child, pictured above with their Mother Buddy Rosemary (right).

What Poverty in Pregnancy Really Looks Like

To give birth in a hospital anywhere in the world there are certain things you need to bring. Yet in Malawi where hospitals are so severely under resourced these things are not for comfort, but for survival.

Imagine having to bring your own razor to cut your umbilical cord, or your own sheet to lie on when you’re giving birth because there isn’t enough water to wash the beds between patients and you’re trying to prevent infection. These are items we take for granted, provided for us, but in Malawi it is the responsibility of the family’s to bring these sterile items to the maternity ward, items which many rural families struggle to afford…

Unfortunately we know what happens when a family doesn’t have the money to buy these items a birth pack. They often don’t feel like they can’t go to hospital or health clinic to give birth. So they give birth at home, alone.

As tenant farmers the couple frequently moved around and built their own houses.

Mercy and Joseph

Last November we met Mercy, her and her husband Joseph who were working on a farm, a job they’d recently moved district for. They were due to be paid at Harvest, but harvest was another three months away and they were eight and a half months pregnant.

Mercy discovered during her pregnancy she was living with HIV. Because of the risk this adds to childbirth they talked about going to the Guardian shelter, where families who live far away from the clinic can stay in the weeks before childbirth so that they are near to medical support. Yet they didn’t have the money for the necessary birth pack materials and they couldn’t turn up without them…even though Mercy knew when she did turn up they would be told off for not coming sooner.

She considered walking to the clinic when she was in labour, but because she knew others who had passed away in childbirth on the roadside, she had decided to give birth at home.

Mercy and Joseph’s home is a one-room straw house which they shared with their 4 children and the landowner’s animals.

Henry, 3, is their fourth child. His stomach is swollen from Malnutrition and he frequently falls ill, yet has never been tested for HIV.

The difference a clinic birth makes

A woman is twice as likely to die in childbirth if a skilled health worker is not present, so by staying at home a family doubles the likelihood of mum like Mercy dying in childbirth. For the sake of a pack that costs around £13 Mercy’s life was being put at risk.

Her Mother Buddy, Rosemary, counselled the family about the importance of a hospital birth and we provided an emergency birth kit so they could set off for the Guardian shelter.

Two weeks later, Mercy gave birth in the clinic, to a baby boy called David weighing 8lbs 3oz. We’re thrilled Mercy gave birth safely and we’ll continue to visit until May, ensuring the whole family has all the nutrition and family planning advice they need to keep everyone healthy.

Mercy whilst pregnant (left) and with her children the week after baby David was born.

Help a woman become a mum for Mother’s Day

All this was made possible with a simple birth pack, each Pregnancy Twinning Mother’s Day card sent this year pays for another woman to get birth pack containing all the essential items to give birth safely in a clinic, where medical help is on hand.

This year is your chance to give your Mum something different, give her a gift which helps somebody else become a mother.

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