London calling

Following her visits to Germany, Italy and Scotland, Dorothy Ngoma, our Oxfam champion from Malawi, visits a UNISON conference, before heading to London. This is the final part of her tour to promote Oxfam's public first message.

I headed, for the second year in a row, to UNISON's National Women's Conference in Southport. I was giving a talk to 500 women about the importance of publicly provided healthcare for people in poorer countries. Being a trade unionist and a woman, I felt like I was part of one big family.

After that I visited the Whittington Hospital's new midwifery and neo-natal care unit in London. It was absolutely amazing. I was totally overwhelmed by the high quality of resources, technical support, as well as the skills and leadership of the midwives. Like in Malawi, the midwives here have the same passion for caring for mothers and babies, unfortunately that is where the similarities end. We don't have the space, technology, training, or level of expertise that is so apparent at the Whittington. We don't even have any neo-natal services.

It was unbelievable to see these tiny babies, weighing less than a bag of sugar, being given the support they need to help them grow into healthy adults. In Malawi a child born at 23 weeks would be an abortion. 32 weeks is the youngest a baby could survive.

I asked if they ever have women dying from complications in childbirth and it was a struggle for staff to remember when or if this had ever happened. In the UK 1 in 10,000 women die in childbirth, whereas we are lucky in Malawi if a day goes by without losing a woman in childbirth, as 16 women die daily from maternal mortality in Malawi.

Today is my last day in London and I've been fortunate enough to spend it in the Houses of Parliament. I met with the All Party Group for Aid, Debt and Trade. This is a cross party group interested in development issues. I told them about the health crisis that Malawi faces and the real benefits I have seen from UK aid given to the Malawian Ministry of Health. Again, I spoke about how vital this money has been, especially in terms of the government being able to train and pay for much needed midwifes.

I feel elated that, on this trip, I have met politicians, health professionals and activists who are passionate about improving health services in developing countries. Our public health first message is vital if health services in developing countries are going to meet the needs of the poorest people.

Please join Oxfam International’s Campaign for Health & Education For All.

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