LIFE FOR MOTHERS
By: Harry Strulovici
“How lucky I am to be living in a country where health services are available. Why can’t they be available in Uganda or anywhere else”?
I was a successful surgeon for almost 30 years, including New York and Michigan. After my father died, I took stock of my life and became a full-time student again. I realized I wanted to focus my efforts on health care for women in developing countries.
Yale University appointed me a career scholar in international health and wanted to link my surgical skills with my interest in women’s rights. They sent me to Uganda to learn about, and surgically repair, women who suffered with obstetric fistula, a birth canal injury that results from poor obstetric care and prolonged labor.
Each morning, I would pass dozens of pregnant women waiting to deliver their babies, lying on the ground on blankets with their infants and children with food, clothes strewn about. Some of these babies would undoubtedly die. Who knew which of these women would develop fistula?
I hesitantly walked into the operating room and met my mentor, Dr. Justus Barageine, a fistula surgeon, who became a close friend. Sometimes there’d be electrical outages and I’d have to push the operating table to the window to get sufficient light to be cast onto the patient.
Some 2-million women worldwide suffer from fistula and experience constant incontinence, social segregation and health problems. I thought how lucky I am to be living in a country where health services are available. Why can’t they be available here in Uganda or anywhere else where they’re not?
I returned to New York and started a new NGO called Life for Mothers, whose mission is to reduce the number of women in the developing world who die during pregnancy and childbirth and keep newborns alive through the first month of life. Over the next four years, I shuttled between Washington, Kampala, and New York and, with the help of a key Ugandan parliamentarian, Honorable Sylvia Ssinabulya, I obtained the necessary registrations, partners and a modicum of funds to implement our pilot project.
I had seen what it meant for a woman to get to a health facility, walking 10 kilometers over several hours especially in the rainy season. I recruited 50 community health workers from 25 villages and trained them to use mobile health technology, registering 5,500 residents and 1,600 women of reproductive age into an electronic database in 18 days. I will continue to fight for a woman’s right to access health care and education, and for them to become their own agents of change.
My advice is that older workers should never give up their dreams just because they are no longer young. They have the capacity to make their later lives rich and fulfilling for themselves and for others. The desire to dream and turn that dream into reality should never die.
To learn more about Harry Strulovici visit the youtube link below.