In the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Idai, Dr. Elsa Jacinto, an obstetrician and gynecologist, was deployed to the storm-ravaged Buzi District to support the provisional health directorate. It was there that she encountered a deadly emergency.
A pregnant 14-year-old girl arrived at the Buzi District Hospital with serious obstetric complications. She had gone into labour the day before, but her baby was in a dangerous position.
Dr. Jacinto, who usually works in UNFPA's Beira sub-office, recognized that the girl and her baby were both at grave risk, and that a vaginal delivery was not possible. She performed an emergency Caesarean section delivery in a clinical tent, which is managed by Samaritan's Purse.
The operation was successful. A healthy baby girl was born, and both mother and daughter are on their way to recovery.
Early childbearing and inadequate access to maternal health services are two of the main contributing factors in the high number of maternal deaths among young women in Africa. Girls aged 15-19 years are twice as likely to die during childbirth as women 20 years and above. Coupled with HIV, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for young women aged 15-19 years, with 26 per cent of all maternal deaths occurring among adolescents.
Dr. Jacinto says the experience of helping crisis-affected women and girls in Mozambique has been deeply rewarding. "I am able to ensure these young girls and women are able to go back to their families, villages, and camps with their babies, ready to confront their next challenge," she said. "They are still working to rebuild their lives... the effort [gives] them one less thing to worry about."
UNFPA has provided equipment and reproductive health kits to the Buzi District Hospital, with support from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.