Rwanda has made great strides in their healthcare systems. Rwanda has expressed a commitment to improving maternal health outcomes, and in 2015 they were one of the few African countries that fulfilled the United Nations Millennium Development Goal No. 5 by reducing their maternal mortality rate (MMR) from 476 to 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. I was fortunate to join a team that helped a local medical resident, Honorine Ingabire, gather retrospective data on a research project that seeks to reduce the delay in detection and management of critically ill obstetric patients in district hospitals. I was thrilled, as the quality of a nation’s maternal health system is a key indicator of the quality of its overall health system, in general.
Our project took us to four hospitals (Kibagabaga, Muhima, Kabutare and Nyanza) throughout the country. As a result, we experienced life outside of the capital city and had a truly immersive experience. In each of the hospitals, we were helped and treated kindly by nurses, midwives, and doctors who were overwhelmingly busy to begin with. Dr. Ingabire was exploring whether the implementation of a Modified Early Obstetric Warning System, which has been proven to reduce the MMR in the United Kingdom, would be accepted and effective in district hospitals in Rwanda. Through our retrospective data collection, Brooke, Sonja and I learned that further training on how to fill-out the risk factors identification form may be necessary, the frequency of vitals checks must be improved, and that the miracle of childbirth will continue to need the focused attention of local and international actors. Afterall, delivery related complications such as pre-eclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage, and infection, can leave mothers in chronic pain, immobile and worse case, dead. This prevents them from earning an income, feeding and educating their children, and participating in community life and decision making. We know that when women suffer, so does the world.