GABU, Guinea-Bissau -- Fatumata Djau gave birth to her fourth daughter alone, at home, in the dark. She arrived at the hospital at 3 a.m. with the newborn still attached, and the midwife cut the cord in the parking lot.
Hours later, the 32-year-old mother lies listless on her side as sweat beads trickle down her back. She has lost a lot of blood, and the maternity ward is stifling, with no electricity to whirl the rusty ceiling fans to life.
Across the courtyard, first-time mother Aissato Sanha is following doctor's orders – she is spending the final three weeks of a high-risk pregnancy in a bed literally a dash from the delivery room. But she is young, maybe too young, in her teens, and she has high blood pressure.
Both women are up against the same challenge: Guinea-Bissau is one of the deadliest places in the world to give birth.
Despite some progress, childbirth is still a perilous endeavor across sub-Saharan Africa, and Guinea-Bissau stands out for its dire statistics. A woman has a 1 in 19 chance of maternal death in this tiny country, compared to about 1 in 2,100 in the United States.
Experts say women are increasingly heading to medical centers when things go awry. Lives here, though, come down to whether cell phone networks are working, whether tides will allow boats to set sail. How quickly women can get to hospitals on muddy, rutted paths lit only by the moon, and whether their families can buy the right medicine.
Even then, it can sometimes be too late.
By Krista Larson. Read the rest of the story here.