NEW YORK—Public broadcasting television puts a spotlight on maternal health in Africa with a feature-length documentary on an unconventional project that trains midwives in Mozambique to perform obstetric surgery.
The program, titled "Birth of a Surgeon," is part of the Public Broadcasting System's Wide Angle series that is dedicated to in-depth coverage of international issues.
It follows midwife Emilia Cumbane through her medical classes and work in the delivery wards of a hospital in the Mozambique capital of Maputo as she learns to save mothers' lives with surgical techniques like caesarean sections that have long been restricted to certified physicians. Then she must fight for recognition of her surgical competence.
In the introduction, the program states that one in every ten babies born in Mozambique dies by the age of one, and that one in every 10 mothers used to die there from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, in large part because the country has very few physicians. Mozambique's program is training "young women defying traditional medical training and cultural barriers to beat the odds of death in childbirth."
Access to emergency obstetric care is one of the three "pillars" of practical solutions to stubbornly high maternal mortality rates worldwide, along with access to reproductive health care and skilled care during delivery.
Mozambique, devastated by a 16-year civil war, has cut its maternal mortality in half since 1992 and is one of the few countries now on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 5, which calls for reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015.
The hospital's first class of 30 midwives began training in surgery and delivery techniques in 2004 and graduated in July. "I like to be a midwife," Cumbane says in the film. "I think it's a good profession—to produce people."
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