We’re helping unseen women to survive

08. 03. 2019

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BRATISLAVA, 8 March 2019 – In 2018, MAGNA doctors assisted in more than 10.000 deliveries at crisis-affected areas in Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. In these countries, women are struggling every day to survive. MAGNA specialises in providing medical assistance to women and children. During 2018 its projects targeted hundreds of thousands of women and girls.

“Before they can fight for their rights, women and girls in crisis-affected areas have to survive,” says MAGNA operating director Denisa Augustínová. “Although women hardly start wars, they suffer the most grievous consequences of them. There are millions of women all over the world touched by conflicts and all too often they are overlooked. Women and girls are systematically targeted in conflicts as an effective military strategy to dominate and humiliate.”  At least 35% of women worldwide have been sexually assaulted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, the estimate is in the millions. In crisis areas, basic health services are disrupted and health facilities are destroyed, which is reflecting in a maternal mortality rate an average 2.5 times higher in countries both during conflict and after the conflict. Women have no opportunity to be treated, they die of banal, curable complications and are exposed to unimaginable risk every day in their lives.

Like Arek in South Sudan. Here only a few women give birth in hospital. They are forced to consider birth a normal part of life, see limited access to health care and most women receive no professional assistance while they are pregnant and at childbirth. There are many reasons why they don’t; including long distances from healthcare facilities, lack of medical staff, immense security risks, and financial constraints. Arek almost died during the delivery of her first child, when she lost it after two days of excruciating pain. Although her neighbours transported her to the nearest health centre eight hours away, Arek’s child could not be saved. She walked six hours through a barren landscape to give birth to her second child at a MAGNA health centre. Safe delivery raises the odds that both a woman and her child will survive. Even now, more South Sudanese women die during delivery than finish school.

Like Mado in the troubled Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where civil war has left its mark. Armed men broke into the home where she and her husband lived and sexually assaulted her when she tried to save his life. Still he was shot dead. Then they raped her in front of her children. Three of Mado’s daughters were raped and then murdered, with just her twelve-year old son and nine-year old daughter escaping death. The attackers only let Mado cover herself scantily before they drove her and her survived children out of the house. The dead children and her husband had to be left behind without even a farewell. But the village where she had lived eventually banished her because rape is a lifetime stigma. At MAGNA, Mado found both medical and psychological care and assistance.

Like Leila, a Yazidi woman in Iraq. She was kidnapped by members of Islamic State, who sexually assaulted her. They executed everybody in her family except her niece. First they killed the men and boys they had corralled in the school courtyard. Then Leila was taken with other younger women to Mosul to become sex slaves, and there she was abused by Islamic State soldiers. She talks about having died too many times and was born again.“I thought I would die only once in my life, but I did every hour of the day when a new Daesh soldier would come for me. After years of suffering, inhuman treatment and unbelievable violence, MAGNA was able to help her overcome the trauma.

They do not need compassion or judgement; they need help. What they require is additional medical and psychological attention and protection. And those needs often overlap.

While many displaced women, women living in conflict zones and women on the run remain unseen, MAGNA teams of health professionals are on a mission to provide them with safe deliveries and both prenatal and postpartum care in crisis areas, surgery when there are complications during childbirth, vaccinations and education about reproductive health and family planning.

“Bearers of life are celebrated in many communities, but it hides the cruel reality. Despite the progress made, around 1,000 women die in the world each day either of childbirth or because of complications during pregnancy.” adds Augustínová. “Most of these deaths could be avoided if the mothers had access to professional obstetric care, medicines and medical equipment. No woman should put her life in danger because she happens to be pregnant. Both today on the International Women’s Day and on every other day in the year, we need to make clear that any death of a mother or child is unacceptable and avoidable.”


Do you know?

  • In Syria 9.5 million women and children need medical humanitarian aid
  • Two of the five pregnant or breastfeeding mothers in South Sudan are malnourished
  • Six out of ten households in eastern Ukraine conflict-affected areas are headed by women
  • Mortality rates in Iraq among mothers and their children during birth more than doubled during the years of the recent conflict there
  • More than a quarter of female Syrian refugees in Lebanon had no access to prenatal care while they were pregnant

Around the world, up to 2.6 million children die within the first month of birth. In countries where no medical care is available, premature birth, complications during delivery and infections are the most common causes of death. Prenatal care is critical to identifying and alleviating complications that might have a major impact on a newborn’s health and the mother’s survival.

In 2018, MAGNA staff

  • Assisted with more than 9,870 deliveries, including Caesarean sections
  • Provided more than 63,738 prenatal and postnatal and gynaecological examinations
  • Vaccinated more than 45,000 women and girls
  • Assisted to more than 2,500 victims of sexual assault


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