AFRICA: Can you ever forgive what we have done?

From: “Angela Gorman”
Date: 18 October 2011 18:53:39 ACDT
To: “HIFA2015 – Healthcare Information For All by 2015”
Subject: [HIFA2015] Attitude and behaviour of
health workers (17) Midwifery practice: I think we owe developing
countries an apology Reply-To: “HIFA2015 – Healthcare Information For
All by 2015” <>

Hi everyone,
On our first visit to Africa in 2005, we noticed that women were
delivering on their backs.. exactly as I had done 34yrs before, plus
the babies were kept away from the mothers, exactly as my own babies
were kept away from me for up to 12hrs following delivery. No choice
for me…that was how it was done here in the UK. We also noticed that
babies were often left on cold tiled surfaces wrapped in thin sheets,
this did not happen to my babies. When we asked the midwives why they
used the supine position for birth and kept the babies away from their
mothers, we were told, “this is what we were told you do in the west.”

African mother and baby

We then explained that this was how women used to be delivered
(including me) but that now women were delivered as upright as
possible and their babies were given to them to breast-feed
immediately. The midwives looked astonished and said “but what you are saying is how our mothers taught us to deliver, but we changed because that was what we were told you did in the west!”

Sadly we have, for all the right reasons, changed practices which were subsequently shown to be better and safer. By keeping babies from mothers and not encouraging early breast-feeding, we have increased the risk of PPH for the mother and caused hypothermia/hypoglycaemia in the babies! I think we owe developing countries an apology! Best wishes, Angela

HIFA2015 profile: Angela Gorman is a nurse and is chair of Life for
African Mothers (formerly Hope for Grace Kodindo), a charity based in
the UK. Life for African Mothers provides life-saving drugs such as
magnesium sulphate and misoprostol to help reduce maternal deaths in developing countries. angelagorman AT Click here to read online.
HIFA2015: Healthcare Information For All by 2015:
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NOTE from Gloria: Yes, the people of Africa deserve a profound apology for all the unnecessary suffering of the past caused by Westerners. More than that, we could look after nutrition and clean water so the misoprostol and mag sulphate would not be used. These Western drugs are the “instant quick fix export from the west” that will also make the next generation of Westerners bow their heads in shame. We must also stop allowing Western crackpots to circumcise men and boys in unethical experiments in vain attempts to curb AIDS. By changing our ways on a deep level, our apologies to Africa will ring true.

9 thoughts on “AFRICA: Can you ever forgive what we have done?

  1. After the birth of my first, I began questioning our methods and rituals for childbirth. I’m not sure who decided birthing on our backs and circumcising our babies was best. But, I am glad you’re writing and questioning these things. They need to be published so others question as well. “Tradition” is not a good enough reason to continue unnatural practices.

  2. A woman lying on her back is like a stranded beetle. She can’t kick, fight, claw and run so easily. When she’s on her back, the star of the show becomes the “deliverer”. Get a woman up off her back, and she’ll snarl at “the deliverer” to leave her alone, she’ll go to places away from where the “deliverer” is, she’ll become the “star” in her own birth-giving. If you’re trying to prove that you’re important, keeping that birthing woman on her back is the only way to get control.

  3. I know a man born in Ivory Coast. He shared stories with me about how as a 2- 3 year olds they were torn away from their Grandmothers and Mothers to go to ‘schools.’ Their Grandmothers and Mothers crying but believing it was the best thing for them. This same man also shared his story of circumcision as a 13 year old. He and his brother were visited by their father one day and he told them the time had come. What a traumatic thing. The man laughed about it, but I know he suffers deeply in many ways. He came to know Western culture in adult life and is stuck between two worlds. He longs for Africa. That is the true, traditional African culture there once was.

  4. @Lisa – That circumcision at 13 that you mention would have been part of his “true, traditional African culture”. Most African tribes (at least in southern Africa) circumcise boys at age 13 as part of a ritual whereby the boys become men. This has nothing to do with Western influences.

  5. WE don’t owe Africa an apology because WE were doing what we were doing the same that we were told to do by the all knowing medical world. It was easier for the doctors to have us deliver on our backs, against all natural instinct and indigenous cultural teaching. The medical world owes US an apology and a dramatic change in their attitude towards health/disease!!

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