As described by Patrick Keller, edited by Emily Davies.
The call came in on a Sunday lunchtime. A health inspector in Ambatomainty, Madagascar, said a woman was about to give birth, but there were complications. Nurse and founder of Mobile Hilfe Madagascar, Tanja Hock, confirmed the worst – without professional intervention, the woman would not live through the night.
It was getting late in the day; the only way to help this woman was to bring the medical team to her. Within a couple of hours, pilot Wouter Nagel was airborne with a surgeon, anaesthetist and Tanja Hock on board; a 50-minute flight bringing help when needed the most, just as the sun was setting.
Amazingly, with her many years of experience, Tanja was able to deliver the baby without surgical intervention. Some local doctors and nurses gathered around as she recognised the teaching opportunity – describing it as an absolute “God-moment”!
In Madagascar, 335 women out of every 100,000 live births result in the death of the mother, often due to preventable pregnancy and birth complications. Thankfully on this occasion, tragedy was averted with a safe birth for mum and baby. Wouter and the medical team stayed overnight and returned to Antananarivo the following day, grateful for a successful outcome.
“I feel privileged to be part of a team where we jump up and run to save lives,” says MAF pilot, Wouter. “It was Sunday afternoon, and I was playing with my kids when the call came. I dropped everything and we made the flight happen. Because it was so late in the day I couldn’t return to Tana [Antananarivo] - I landed with the setting sun. I was glad it worked out like that.”
Madagascar ranks 33rd in the world for Maternal Mortality Ratio with 335 female deaths/100,000 live births. In comparison, South Sudan ranked number 1, with 1,150/100,000. The UK ranked 158th in the world, with 7/100,000. Figures from 2017.