Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hepatitis B: A Hidden Threat in Senegal

Women and their children in Senegal are facing a growing threat of hepatitis B infection, which can lead to liver cancer and sometimes death.  A recent news report states that over two million Senegalese have the disease, and most don't even know they are infected.  Ninety percent of cases are asymptomatic, and the country doesn't have universal screening, even though 350,000 people in Senegal are chronic carriers.

Hepatitis B can pass from mom to baby during birth, so pregnant women in more developed countries are screened for the disease and infants are vaccinated within 12-24 hours of birth to prevent infection.  The World Health Organization says all infants should be vaccinated by 24 hours old, but most Senegalese babies aren't until at least six weeks, because they were not born in a hospital where the vaccine was on hand.  To make things even more difficult, birth-doses of the vaccine aren't usually covered by international health organizations.

The danger is significant.  WHO states that hepatitis B kills around 600,000 people every year and causes the majority of liver cancers.  Even if the disease is not transmitted during birth, an unvaccinated child is still vulnerable to contracting it at home from contact with an infected caregiver or close relative. Screening and prevention are necessary as those infected as infants or young children are more likely to become chronically ill.

WWHI equips Community Healthcare Workers in Senegal to provide better care to women and their children at the local level.  Rather than having to walk for miles to the nearest clinic, pregnant women can be monitored and educated in their own villages, so threats like hepatitis B can be prevented, and if necessary identified and treated.  Check out the Get Involved section of our site to find out how you can help in this vital mission.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How I Will Celebrate My First Mother's Day as a Mom

Stephanie with her firstborn
By Stephanie Owens

I’m fortunate to have had the unique experience of working at an OB-GYN office while being pregnant. I've seen what good obstetrical care looks like from the inside out. During my time there, I witnessed joy, excitement and hope; both my own and that of the women I interacted with each day. There was no question that these women and their babies were in the hands of skilled professionals. The peace of mind this affords is something every expectant mother should experience.

At each visit, we had our vitals checked by a nurse or medical assistant. If there was any cause for concern, the doctors would be notified right away so the necessary care could be given. We were given the proper tests and had the necessary ultrasounds.I never had to go without prenatal vitamins to ensure my son got what he needed for his development. 

I was proud to be a small part of such a vital mission, and grateful to receive such excellent care myself. It never occurred to me that mothers-to-be in other parts of the world were having a drastically different experience. The thought of no medical supervision or giving birth alone would have been outrageous to me.

So upon initially hearing the words "maternal mortality," I was shocked that such a tragedy still exists. In my mind, women had died in childbirth centuries ago, but certainly not since then. Surely not in our modern world, with all of our medical technology, could such a widespread and preventable catastrophe be possible. But all of the advances in the world don't do much good in areas of poverty where women can’t access them. 

It’s difficult to imagine, in our affluent culture, that a pregnant woman might have to walk for miles to have a checkup. Had I not crossed paths with Women's World Health Initiative, I never would have. But for thousands of women in developing countries this is the harsh reality, with no foreseeable hope of giving one's child a better start. These women are equally concerned for their babies' health and their own. There's a significant chance that they may lose their own lives to give life. 

Did you know that every year, 287,000 women die as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth? That's one woman every two minutes. For each of these deaths, an average of four orphans are left behind. These women are not only the caretakers, they are often the teachers, the health care providers, the community leaders, and the ones who ensure children get immunizations, education and clean water.

But this Mother's Day, we can make pregnancy and childbirth safer for every mother. By making a donation at in honor of the special women in your life, WWHI sends a Mother's Day card via email or regular mail to the recipient of your choice. Your gift will help women in rural villages of West Africa lead longer lives, raise healthy families, and strengthen their communities. 

Visit to order a card for the special women in your life, and also give hope to women worldwide. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Related Posts with Thumbnails