UK charity Maa raises over £20k to combat maternal mortality in Bangladesh23 Apr 2021
Cover: Bangladeshi women getting their health checked by the Maa team. Image belongs to Maa charity. Photo permission from Mithila Sharmin, MaaMonth Manager.
UK charity Maa has raised over £20,000 in a month-long fundraiser to combat maternal mortality in Bangladesh.
Maa, which is the Bangla word for “mother”, stands for the ‘Maternal Aid Association’.
The total amount of money raised so far in 2021 is £21,741.13.
For MaaMonth this February, the charity could no longer host in-person events because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, Maa encouraged virtual fundraising instead.
This year, 35 societies across different UK universities hosted online events such as gaming and quiz nights.
Each week of the challenge had a different theme: from ‘physical’ and ‘food’ to ‘week without’ and ‘best and bold’.
From eating spicy food, to doing 100 push-ups a day or giving up social media, participants fundraised in creative ways.
The money raised funds health camps and maternal care seminars for pregnant women and young girls in rural parts of Bangladesh.
Pregnancy is the third leading cause of death for women in Bangladesh.
Many Bangladeshi women experience high-risk pregnancies.
They are more likely to suffer from pregnancy complications if they do not live in urban areas, where health services are more accessible.
Bangladesh is one of 57 countries that has a shortage of health care providers, with an estimated 3.05 physicians and 1.07 nurses per 10,000 people. (Source: Maa blog).
This leads to high maternal mortality rates, because there is not enough emergency care available if complications arise during pregnancy and childbirth.
Most maternal mortality deaths are preventable.
Maa, which marked its fifth anniversary in March, aims to tackle maternal health care issues in resource poor settings.
The charity was established in March 2016, after founder Dr Aqil Jaigirdar, then a medical student, visited Bangladesh.
There, he witnessed a mother bleeding to death, following a caesarean birth.
This motivated him to start a charity to educate girls and improve the odds for pregnant women.
Maa started out as a handful of volunteers from King’s College London. No longer just student-led, the team has now grown to more than 50 students and professionals across the UK and Bangladesh.
Maa volunteers regularly hold workshops to teach Bangladeshi women about safe pregnancy and newborn care.
In addition, Maa provides medication on a bi-monthly basis, which is potentially life-changing for the women.
MaaMonth Manager and medical student Mithila Sharmin said: “We provide medication, health checks, resources and education about menstrual hygiene for mothers and young girls, which is a taboo topic in Asian communities. We also educate fathers, so that men in the families who don’t really get involved can be more present and seek assistance.
“There was a mother who travelled for four hours to our health camp, as her three previous pregnancies were miscarriages. So, you can see how desperate she was.
“We’re lucky here in the UK, we have the NHS and [expecting mothers] can get ultrasound scans and a midwife for free. But in Bangladesh, so many mothers don’t see any healthcare professionals throughout their pregnancy, or before and after labour.
“Maa’s goal is to revolutionise maternal healthcare, starting with Bangladesh and then expanding to other countries.”
Miss Sharmin added that Maa’s work is especially important in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She continued: “Covid-19 has hit hard everywhere in the world. Imagine the situation in third-world countries. Many Bangladeshi mothers were accessing our health camps or smaller clinics which provided affordable healthcare. But because of lockdown, these services didn’t have any funds to run.
“Most of these mothers come from poor families. Because of the pandemic, their husbands couldn’t find work any more, and young girls couldn’t go to school and access education. So, lockdown in Bangladesh, where accessing healthcare is already so hard, is even harder, especially if people don’t have an income.”
Maa has a project called JourneyMaa, where medical students, doctors and volunteers travel to Bangladesh to set up health camps and carry out checks on mothers including blood glucose levels, blood pressure and urinalysis scores.
JourneyMaa volunteers also help diagnose early signs of conditions such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia.
More than 400 mothers have received treatment from JourneyMaa camps so far.
Maa is also part of the Global and Oral Health Collaborative, which is a network of different health organisations.
Recently, Maa announced the launch of their Global Health podcast, which will be available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Additionally, Maa has developed an app, MaaConnect, which will flag up health data and ensure that Bangladeshi mothers in remote villages can have access to medical treatment.
Donations can be made to Maa at https://maacharity.org/donate.