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My Cardiff

Professor Judith Hall

Professor Judith Hall, Welsh Woman of the Year 2008, reveals why she set up the charity The Mothers of Africa…

Professor Judith Hall in Benin

Professor Judith Hall in Benin

When Professor Judith Hall from the University’s School of Medicine learned that African mothers are more than 80 times more likely to die in childbirth than those in developed countries she decided she had to do something.

"I felt I had to do something after hearing a doctor from Benin talk about the death rate among women giving birth in his country. I heard him speak at a seminar about maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and learned that the number of women dying in Africa through childbirth [more than 400] would fill a Boeing 747 every day.

"I was appalled. We take so much we've got for granted. The figures quoted were absolutely appalling. I decided no matter how little I could do, I would try to do something. The Mothers of Africa charity was set up three years ago involving my Department of Anaesthetics & Intensive Care Medicine with NHS Wales colleagues in response to maternal mortality figures in Sub-Saharan Africa. The charity took its first trip out to Africa in May 2005.

"We've been sending trips out to Benin, Togo and just recently Ethiopia. It's a small team, from the School of Medicine and NHS Wales, of three educationalists, teachers and clinicians who teach them how to do things a little bit more safely and recognise sick patients.

Judith at work

Judith at work

"People there are poorly educated, unsupported, and quite frankly it's a miracle they can do anything with resources. Anything we can do is worth doing.

"In Cardiff alone we have 120 anaesthetists but in the whole of Benin, which has 11m people, they have 11 anaesthetists.

"More than half a million women die in child birth in the world in a year, but only 1 per cent of those deaths occur in the developed world. The majority occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

"They have drugs and equipment but don't know how to use them safely. Some of the practitioners have been giving anaesthetics for years without knowing whether what they are doing is safe or not. They don't know how to recognise when women are sick or how to resuscitate them.

"Without education your practice becomes very bad. We've had some great seminars for people who have been giving resuscitation and looking after women for a long time. They are so willing to learn. Really, what we're teaching is to recognise and immediately care for sick women.

"Mothers of Africa has truly benefited from the University’s support. Our 125th anniversary concert Cardiff sings Classics held in January will make possible the charity’s trip this spring to Liberia to deliver a combination of classroom teaching and theatre-based work."

Professor Judith Hall is the acting head of the Department of Anaesthetics & Intensive Care Medicine at the School of Medicine

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