Wed, Aug 10, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Maternal deaths quadruple in South Africa


A week after delivering the stillborn baby, the daughter was still ill. A doctor ordered blood tests and X-rays and told a nurse she was in critical condition. They waited six hours for a nurse who took her blood pressure and left. Shortly after, she died.

Like most victims, her mother did not complain.

The report does not identify interviewees by name, for fear of repercussions. However, one victim, Ethiopian Ruta Araya, agreed to speak about the abuse she suffered when she was admitted to Dora Nginza Hospital in 2008, seven months’ pregnant with high blood pressure.

She said nurses “swore at me and insulted me,” telling her to go back to her own country — an attitude reflecting xenophobia in South Africa.

A doctor who ordered a scan told her “he couldn’t see anything, that I wasn’t even pregnant.”

She appealed to a doctor from Ghana: “I begged him: ‘Please, this doctor doesn’t want to help me, they don’t want to take the baby out, the baby’s dying in my tummy.’”

The Ghanaian persuaded her doctor to operate. Fifteen days after her admission, Araya gave birth to a 1kg baby girl. Even in the operating room, the doctors joked that her baby would be so small they would put it in a shoe box.

Nurses refused to change her bandages from a Caesarean section unless she paid bribes, causing the wound to turn septic and painful.

“I’m 28 years old, but I feel like a 50-year-old woman. I can’t even pick up my own baby ... I don’t know when I will feel young again,” she said.

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