Sylvia’s Journey

The searing pangs came in the middle of the night. Sylvia knew what they meant. All of her deliveries had been at home, but she was bleeding this time and knew she needed help. The closest health facility was more than 2 hours away – by foot!

The road from Sylvia’s village is inaccessible to vehicles except motorcycles.

Her village, high in the hills of Eastern Uganda, is inaccessible to most vehicles except motorcycles. Her husband managed to track down one…but it had no petrol.  With no other options, they made the arduous journey on foot down a path, slippery with mud and rain.

In severe pain, thirty minutes into the journey, Sylvia gave birth to a daughter in a ditch by the side of the road. Having just delivered, and the health facility still far away, she made the 30-minute journey home uphill and in the dark. 

Is there a time when a woman is more vulnerable than when giving birth?  So much is hanging in that moment. If even one thing goes wrong, a life…her life or the life of her  baby can be lost.

Having skilled care before, during and after birth is one of the best ways to ensure this doesn’t happen. We rarely hear of mothers dying in Canada. But for women like Sylvia, care never comes, ending in a preventable tragedy.

Rev. Moses Mukholi, a Save the Mothers graduate, says in his career alone he’s officiated more than 50 funerals of women who died due to pregnancy and childbirth. He says the trauma of these deaths is felt long after the service ends.

“To see a mother die and leave an innocent child…we don’t know their future. Who will take care of them?” Rev. Moses Mukholi, STM Graduate.


Sylvia holds her daughter, aptly named Mercy.

That’s why he’s been working with local health staff to go into remote, rural communities to build relationships and trust. That’s an important first step, he says, since women in these communities are discouraged to seek outside help during pregnancy and childbirth. Rev. Mukholi says over time there’s been a cultural shift and now when he visits with midwives, they are seen as “friends”. The midwives are there to check in with expectant mothers and teach them about safe motherhood. They were there to check in on Sylvia after her ordeal. Both she and her baby, named Mercy, are now doing well. Rev. Mukholi says he is also using his platform to teach women in these communities about family planning.

Great inroads are being made, but Rev. Mukholi says there are many communities that still need to be reached, with people who know the culture, speak the language, and most importantly, are informed about safe motherhood. That’s why he’s encouraging people to support the Save the Mothers program in East Africa, saying he is living proof that local leadership can save mothers’ lives.

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