Just to save that life: a photo story on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone

February 10, 2013

Just to save that life: a photo story on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone © Lynsey Adarrio

In October 2012, photographer Lynsey Adarrio from VII agency travelled to Bo, Sierra Leone for a photo project on maternal mortality. She spent one week at MSF’s Gondama Referral Centre (GRC) – a 220 bed hospital focused on providing care to children and pregnant women. In 2011, MSF assisted 2262 women to deliver their babies at GRC – many of whom would have died if they had not received any medical care. As a result, the maternal mortality rate is estimated to be 61% lower in Bo district than in the rest of the country.

According to Adarrio, there are some great challenges in photographing maternal health as a subject matter. “Giving birth is one of the most intimate things a woman does in her lifetime, and documenting that can be very invasive.” Adarrio explains. “Scenes are often graphic, with a great deal of nudity and blood, and I try to be as respectful as possible, while capturing the story.”

Adarrio says her strongest memory of her visit to Sierra Leone, was of one woman, Zainab, who arrived at GRC suffering from severe bleeding after having delivered a child at home. “When I went over to her bed, I stood over her, just thinking about what a tragedy her imminent death was, simply because her blood loss was preventable, had she had the proper medical care from the beginning. I was watching her unconscious, with labored breathing, wondering whether she would survive. Every so often, she would open her eyes and stare at me. And then close them again. Five days later, she passed away.”

View the photofilm Just to Save that Life, featuring Lynsey Adarrio’s photos from Sierra Leone, here.

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