Medi-Help – A new non-profit association whose mission is to rescue and support teenage girls and young mothers at risk in Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa’s population is exploding and by the year 2100 may quadruple to 5 billion people.
Even at this very early stage, the consequences of this population explosion are already clearly visible in almost every African country. Against a backdrop of extreme poverty as well as war and rampant corruption in many places, economic development has been unable to keep pace with the needs of the growing population. Existing infrastructure and support systems have been stretched beyond breaking point with labor markets, agriculture, water supply, education, health support, and housing all lagging far behind the growth in population. The result is unemployment, lack of education opportunities, squalid living conditions, and in some areas even severe famine.
These conditions provide a breeding ground for crime and disease with serious infections such as malaria; endemic in vast areas of the continent. An inevitable consequence of this deprivation that will only increase over time can be seen in the unprecedented number of economic migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa traveling alongside refugees in their desperate attempt to reach wealthy Europe.
The value of human life is decreasing in sub-Saharan Africa – over 1000 people die from Malaria, almost 1000 mothers & young girls die after they got pregnant or just delivered their baby – every single day.
In developed western countries hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient are spent on treatments for diseases such as cancer which may prolong life for just a few years or even a few months. In Africa, thousands of people die each day from easily treatable health problems for want of treatment that would cost just pennies.
Young girls and mothers are affected particularly badly. Access to sex education and contraceptives is usually poor or non-existent. Many social taboos and often highly restrictive laws put young girls and women at a substantial disadvantage and they are all too often in no position to resist male pressure. Sexual violence remains a terrifying fact of life across the continent. Unwanted pregnancies or back street abortions abound and far too many children start life without the support of a father. In some undeveloped regions such as Northern Nigeria, Niger, East DRC or Sierra Leone the maternal mortality rate is more than one thousand times higher than that in Western Europe or Japan!
Horrifying as statistics such as these may seem, the world community appears blind to the problem and little of significance is being done to help break the cycle.
Unsafe abortions kill 150 young women & mothers in Africa - every single day.
Complications due to unsafe abortions are the most common reason for both hospital admission and death of teenage girls in Africa. According to WHO estimates, each year 50,000 young women die after such procedures leaving over 150,000 children without a mother to care for them.
In many African countries bleeding shortly after giving birth or after an unsafe abortion is the main cause of death for young women in their best age.
Lack of essential medicines in hospitals and at home deliveries leads to a thousand post-natal deaths just after delivery of the baby.
All too many new mothers across the African continent die shortly after giving birth often followed by the death of the newborn baby deprived of its mother’s care. The tragedy is that the vast majority of these deaths could be prevented using simple and cheap tablets such as Misoprostol where taking just 3 tablets leads to the contraction of the womb/uterus after delivery stopping any fatal bleeding.
This drug is on the WHO Essential Medicine list but is often unavailable even in government clinics and hospitals let alone to the traditional birth attendants (TBA) who assist births in the rural areas.
Low-cost drugs that make a real difference and save lives:
Misoprostol is on the WHO list of essential medicines. It is effective in stopping bleeding after delivery and from complications after a miscarriage.
Mifepristone 10 mg is an ideal "morning-after pill" with a great track record in China and Vietnam. It has been used safely for 15-20 years and is very popular in Asia. It is not currently used in many African countries even though there are substantial benefits compared with other emergency contraceptives.
Levonorgestrel is a common and effective ingredient in many contraceptive pills as well as being used on its own for regular contraception or even as a depot injection lasting for 3 months. It is used also for emergency contraception but taken more than once monthly it can have potentially harmful side effects particularly ectopic pregnancies and messing up the menstrual cycle.
Medi-Help has been involved with studies that show with education both Mifepristone 10 mg with five tablets per month & Levonorgestrel daily tablets or 3 months depot injection are highly suitable forms of contraception for African women and should be provided also to teenage girls at risk.
The misery of teenage pregnancies adds to the vicious circle of poverty.
Even in the more developed African countries such as Kenya or South Africa, a third of teenage girls become pregnant and drop out of school perpetuating a vicious cycle of misery and poverty. Teenage mothers are generally excluded from higher education or training for qualification and therefore from the opportunities that would follow.
Support from the father in these circumstances is rare indeed, and the child will all too often grow up in abject poverty without the stability of a family environment.
Very young mothers have an increased risk of complications both during and after childbirth because of the relative immaturity of their bodies. Even if they survive, many will have to live with the physical (Fistula, can only be corrected by surgery) and psychological damage they suffer. Lack of knowledge or conservative beliefs in society together with the lack of access to safe termination of pregnancy means many unwanted pregnancies just continue. Thus very young girls after rape or incest suffer even more and actually get a lifetime punishment. Tackling the problems of teenage pregnancy and also preventing unsafe abortions must be given a top priority in order to break the cycle.
Women play a key role in many African societies and for the good of the continent, these problems have to be addressed. Teenage girls must be empowered to finish basic school and be given the opportunity to participate in higher education. Access to basic medicine and the prevention of unsafe abortions must be improved. Fathers must not be allowed to escape from their responsibilities. Only through a safe and stable environment for the children can the cycle of misery and poverty be broken.
Medi-Help: Protecting young girls and mothers
Medi-Help was established to find innovative solutions to the problems of unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and complications from childbirth that cause misery and death to so many teenage girls and young mothers across the African continent. Until now only a few non-governmental and aid organizations have been focused on these needs.
We believe that by sourcing generic drugs directly from certified manufacturers in bulk we can increase the availability of modern medicine and long-term contraception. We will ensure that our donations will be used in the most cost-effective manner to save and improve lives and to try to break the cycle of poverty. We will campaign to make "Children by Choice, Not Chance" a mission that will drive policy in countries throughout the region.
Our Focus: Innovation in Medicine & Distribution
To tackle the problems of unwanted pregnancy, preventing unsafe abortion and death through complications in childbirth by providing education and access to modern medicine and contraception.
To provide training and support to local traditional birth attendants and extended community health care workers encouraging them to promote family planning through education and the distribution of innovative and affordable contraception.
To join the fight against malaria by providing support for the introduction of Triple Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy programs aimed at countering the development of drug-resistant forms of malaria and lowering cost for anti-malarial drugs and treatments.
Our innovative approach
To source essential medicine globally in large quantities and arrange for it to be shipped directly to the countries in need for distribution by our local partners.
To maintain a staff comprised entirely of volunteers. We will have no paid staff, either directly through Employment or indirectly through the use of paid consultants etc.
To have no expenditure on donation acquisition, promotion or other overheads
That our only costs will be unavoidable administrative costs such as bank charges, web hosting, etc.
To seek cooperation with local partners including national and regional health associations non-governmental organizations and religious or charitable foundations.
To hold our local partners to a very high standard of accountability, to ensure our local partners are professionally competent, and to co-operate only with organizations that are both low cost and effective.
To support establishing new organizations in areas where no suitable partner can be found.
To send cash directly to local organizations only in the most exceptional of circumstances.
To constantly seek out the most cost-effective approach to provide support and resources to those in need.
We need you
We will not be able to reach every young woman and mother in need in Africa, but we can make a real difference to the lives of a great many. We already source essential drugs and contraceptives in bulk directly from manufacturers and cooperate with strong local partners to provide effective distribution to where they are needed. We will work with existing organizations where possible and create new ones where not. We will help to educate about the dangers of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion and show that there are ways to avoid the traps that serve to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
We seek to enrich the lives of young women across the continent and empower them to strive for a better future for themselves and for their children. To do this we need your help. If you would like to volunteer please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or to make a donation please see our bank account details below.
With your support, we can make the world a better place for young women, mothers, and their children across the African continent.
Frauenfeld, January 28, 2021
Daniel Waldvogel, Founder
Medi-Help is a charitable association with the exemption of donations from Swiss income taxes.
c/o Hotel Frauenfeld
CH - 8500 Frauenfeld SWIFT: ZKBKCHZZ80A
Zürcher Kantonalbank IBAN CHF: CH66 0070 0110 0066 7971 6
Lindenstrasse 1 IBAN USD: CH78 0070 0130 0089 7481 0
CH - 8302 Kloten IBAN EUR: CH25 0070 0130 0090 0399 1
Background to reproductive health - the global situation
According to UN Worldwide, around 220 million pairs (440 million people) have inadequate access to reproductive self-determination. There are millions of teenagers who because of unplanned pregnancies are forced to stop school education and have almost no job perspectives. These teenagers as well as their children (who usually grow up without a father) are caught in misery and a life in poverty for themselves and their children without good prospects and job opportunities
Per year there are about 80 million unplanned pregnancies, 42 million abortions, of which 20 million are unsafe and mainly in the poorest countries and for the most part in Africa south of the Sahara. At least 70'000 mothers die globally and an estimated 5 million women have complicated and expensive hospitalizations or even long-term damages after an unsafe abortion.
During or shortly after childbirth over 300,000 mothers die usually due to bleeding and in the absence of simple medicine such as Misoprostol, where 3 tablets costing USD 0,2 would stop bleeding. 99% of these dying mothers live in developing countries and the majority in Africa.
For a global comparison: Every year, around 131 million people are born and about 55 million die (abortions excluded). This means also that the high number of abortions which should be prevented by the good availability of contraceptives is even higher than the global single largest killer - heart-related causes of death with just around 9 million deaths per year.
These disturbingly large numbers show how huge the effect of lack of access to family planning and the absence of modern medicines is for mothers, many of whom die the same day they give life.
Malaria - background information on the global situation
According to UN, there are about 200 million cases of malaria annually. 430,000 people die of this infectious disease. Over 90% of cases happen in sub-Saharan Africa.
Little known are the other symptoms which affect the lives of those infected: severe migraine, insomnia combined with exhaustion and lead to substantial tiredness
In addition: Each infected, too late or not at all treated can spread the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, causing in Nigeria or Uganda where in some regions people almost every second month are again infected with malaria and this may also lead to resistant parasites!