Every year around 290,000 women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. 90% of these deaths are preventable. Can you imagine facing difficulties during birth in an environment where access to safe anaesthesia and surgery is limited?
Happy Birth Days, a short WFSA film, is an insight into everyday childbirth in Tanzania, and into the Safer Anaesthesia From Education (SAFE) obstetric anaesthesia course which brings Tanzanian anaesthesia providers together for training on how to address the major causes of maternal mortality and give the safest possible care.
Prosper Protas, the nurse anaesthetist star of Happy Birth Days said, “As the film reflects my real life working situation providing anaesthesia in Tanzania, my story can help raise awareness to help us reduce maternal mortality associated with obstetric anaesthesia."
“My favourite part of the filming process was going to one of the villages our hospital serves to meet with patients who received safe obstetric anaesthesia and are now are doing well with their healthy babies. They really appreciate our service.”
Happy Birth Days defines access to safe anaesthesia and surgery, not as a luxury, but as a basic human right - with the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and babies around the world. Currently there are 5 billion people without access to safe and affordable anaesthesia and surgical care when needed, and there is a huge shortage of anaesthesia providers worldwide. In Tanzania there are only 230 anaesthesia providers for 53.5 million people, 0.49 per 100,000 people.
Francis Longhurst, the film’s director, is a London based TV producer and photographer. He has worked on numerous high profile projects that have been recognized by awards bodies including BAFTA, RTS and Grierson. Projects he has worked on have taken him around the world - from the jungles of Ecuador, to the savannahs of Kenya, to operating theatres in Tanzania.
“Going to hospitals in Tanzania was quite overwhelming in a way,” he explained. “The sheer scale of people they deal with and their catchment areas is kind of mind boggling. The anaesthetists just have so much responsibility”
Francis and the WFSA team wanted to make a positive film to reflect how dedicated anaesthesia providers in Tanzania are, even when resources were limited.
“I wanted to highlight how hardworking people are, highlight their potential, and show that it’s better to invest in people by giving them the skills to make a difference to patients, rather than to invest in short term fixes," Francis explained.
“Anaesthesia is not just knocking people out, it’s about making the process safe and making childbirth the positive experience it should be. Having a baby it shouldn't be a source of fear, it should be a source of hope and joy, and anaesthesia has a role to play in that,” he added.
The SAFE courses in obstetric anaesthesia, which have now been held in Tanzania as well as across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, focus on small group teaching with content based on clinical conditions that currently cause 80% of maternal deaths. SAFE courses also train participants on how to train others, so they can go back to their regional hospitals and work with colleagues to build knowledge. This sustainable approach encourages anaesthesia providers to lead the way in improving anaesthetic care in their countries.
Since attending the SAFE course Prosper feels much more confident attending patients and discussing obstetric cases with surgeons. He said finally: “SAFE courses are so meaningful and important because they update our knowledge with the ultimate aim on saving pregnant mother's life.”
To learn more about Francis Longhurst's work please click here. To learn more about the WFSA’s education programmes including SAFE, click here.