Giving Compass' Take:

•James Hitchings-Hales details a program that trains health workers in using ultrasounds in order to make pregnancies safer in Sierra Leone.

• How important are these programs in uprooting systems that marginalize women? What are you doing to support the availability of ultrasounds in all parts of the world?

• Read more about the colossal impact of ultrasounds across rural Africa.

For women in Sierra Leone, pregnancy can not only be complicated, it can feel like a death sentence. It’s one of the worst countries in the world for maternal mortality.

Although the World Health Organization recommends an ultrasound scan — a way to photograph a fetus inside the body using high-frequency sound waves — within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy to check for abnormalities, this rarely happens in Sierra Leone.

Indeed, Bombali District in northern Sierra Leone is home to more than 600,000 people across 3,083 square miles of land. But there is just one ultrasound machine — kept at Makeni General Hospital in its capital city.

Across the whole of Sierra Leone, women have a 1 in 17 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. It’s one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

But British GPs have been attempting to rewrite the rules of the game, through a project funded by the Department for International Development’s UK aid budget. It’s called Doctors for Development, provided by VSO.

The programme is providing portable ultrasound machines called V-scans — and teaching health workers how to use them. It’s a revolutionary development: midwives can take the mobile devices from village to village to treat mothers across Bombali District and, where necessary, refer them earlier for specialist care.

“I saw my child! It's like a video — and the nurse told me that my baby's head is now pointing down, it's ready,” said Mamie Momoh, a 21-year-old who had just seen her baby for the first time thanks to a portable ultrasound.

Over two years, the UK doctors trained 150 health service workers and 193 community health workers, who in turn then treated 62,849 patients. In addition, the British GPs also treated 6,708 patients at Makeni General Hospital.

Read the full article about ultrasounds in Sierra Leone by James Hitchings-Hales at Global Citizen.