Joy in Action: African health-care workers enhance C-section skills


By Barbara Dunlap-Berg

Joy 1 - Training at MJH
Photo: Mary Johnston Hospital 

The World Health Organization reports that every day approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

In the U.S., one out of every three babies is delivered by cesarean section. As with any surgery, risks exist, but danger is much more prevalent in African countries, where medical staff often are not trained to do the procedure. According to the Lancet Global Health journal, maternal mortality after C-section in Africa is 50 times higher than that of high-income countries.

Thanks to counsel and training by skilled medical professionals at United Methodist–related Mary Johnston Hospital in Manila, Philippines, eight doctors and five nurses from United Methodist missionary hospitals in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe are now better equipped to handle emergency maternity cases in their home countries.

“The medical training was a combination of didactic presentations, including case studies, skills standardizations using anatomical models and clinical observations of selected procedures, i.e., cesarean-section, obstetric ultrasound,” said Graciela Salvador-Davila, Health Systems Strengthening technical advisor and director of the Global Health Unit, General Board of Global Ministries.

Before the training, the African participants expressed a desire to learn more about infection control and intraoperative bleeding as well as new techniques. In their training, they received hands-on instruction regarding infection prevention, along with control updates and standardization.

Post-training test scores bring joy

Participants took a pretest upon arrival, Salvador-Davila noted. “The average score was 60 percent, or 10 out of 17 questions. At the end of the course, the same test was administered, and the class average was 94 percent, with many receiving a perfect 100 percent.”

By strengthening and building capacity for maternal and newborn health care within missionary hospitals, Salvador-Davila said, “the training will reinforce surgical skills to perform C-sections.” An added value is the collaboration between United Methodist health facilities working in different settings but united through the Abundant Health Initiative.

One participant in the March 25–30 event was Fidel Agyei Asante, a Ghanaian physician operating out of Hatfield Archer Memorial United Methodist Hospital in Rotifunk, Sierra Leone.

“This program,” he said, “has highlighted so many things. The nature of this program being evidence-based has enlightened me and has built my confidence. I strongly believe that what I’ve been taught here is something which is fully accepted in other developed countries like the United States.”

In addition to Asante’s facility, participants came from Ganta Hospital, Liberia; Jalingo Hospital, Taraba State, Nigeria; Kissy and Mercy hospitals in Sierra Leone; and Nyadire, Old Mutare and Mutambara hospitals in Zimbabwe.

‘God bless The United Methodist Church’

Asked how Global Ministries could continue to support medical staff and hospitals, participants overwhelmingly requested future training experiences. “I look forward to when this training will reach other United Methodist hospitals in Africa and also, with time, focus on pediatric programs because in my hospital the mortality rate involves many pediatric cases,” Asante said.

Salvador-Davila said that Global Health, through its Health System Strengthening program, hopes to replicate C-section refresher training among missionary hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I’m very honored, I’m very proud, I’m very glad to be part of such a program,” Asante said. “God bless GBGM. God bless The United Methodist Church.”

During this season of giving, you can Give Joy and know that your gift acknowledges how every life given by God matters.



Barbara Dunlap-Berg is a freelance writer and editor.

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