The National, Thursday 11th April, 2013
WHILE Australian women going into labour may face an anxious car ride to hospital, just across the Torres Strait, many women in Papua New Guinea face a five-hour walk to the nearest healthcare centre.
It’s enough for many of them not to bother, especially since many can’t afford the hospital fee of up to A$4.50 (K10.20), and don’t want to face the shame of not having clothes, nappies or soap for their newborn.
As a result, women in PNG are 33 times more likely to die in childbirth than in Australia.
On Sunday, Tara Taubenschlag will be running the Australian Running Festival half-marathon to highlight the fact that distance is one of the greatest contributors to maternal mortality.
“‘I figured if a pregnant woman can walk four or five hours, 20km or 30km, to get to a health service, I can do a half-marathon,” she said.
Taubenschlag is now a board member of Send Hope Not Flowers, a charity that encourages people to send donations to help mothers in developing countries in lieu of flowers to new mothers.
Taubenschlag, a mother of two, felt compelled to get involved in Send Hope after hearing “distressing” stories from the Canberra obstetrician who co-founded the charity, Dr Steve Robson.
Send Hope partners with a number of organisations, training midwives in Indonesia, providing emergency kits for hospitals in the Solomon Islands or, in the case of a health clinic in Milne Bay in PNG, providing free kits of essential items to mothers who give birth there.
The “‘baby bundles”, which cost less than A$30 each (K68), are proving a powerful incentive for women to have a supervised birth, and the local maternal mortality rate is dropping.
It’s a cheap price to pay to save a life.