What pro-life means in Africa

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A village in northern Ghana is as far from the political debates as you can get, but a commitment to life follows one priest there--and home again.

By Guest Blogger Father David Garcia

Being pro-life in West Africa is more about fighting for survival after birth rather than fighting political battles. I saw this firsthand when I visited Ghana and Burkina Faso in West Africa recently with a Catholic Relief Services delegation of Hispanic Church Leaders.

We were there to learn about how CRS works with some of the poorest communities on earth to support life from beginning to end. It was both painful to see the extreme poverty and at the same time gratifying to see the hope in the midst of such challenges.

In the village of Sakote-Nabokim in northern Ghana, people had to walk three hours round-trip just to get water and they still were unsure whether it was safe to give to their children. Maternal and infant mortality rates were very high. The normal way to deliver a baby was on the dirt floor of a mud hut with a midwife helping. Any medical assistance was so far away that it might as well have been non-existent. The 400 villagers survived with subsistence farming on small plots of sorghum, corn, and beans.

CRS was able to collaborate with its partners as well as the villagers to dig a deep bore hole for clean water and build a community clinic. The villagers were trained on how to maintain the well. Pregnant women were educated and monitored in maternal, prenatal, and child health care from the beginning of their pregnancy to the fifth birthday of their child.

We saw a large poster board in the middle of the village indicating how many women had delivered their babies at the clinic and how many were participating in the training sessions. As an incentive to attend, each woman receives some small gift like a bar of soap at the end of each meeting. The success of the program to save lives was evident. The poster board reported more than 85 percent of all pregnant women in the village delivered their babies at the clinic. Both mother and baby in all cases were doing well. Breast feeding is encouraged until the first birthday as a preventative for diarrhea, which kills thousands of newborns in the developing world.

The villagers were so grateful for the support they received from CRS that the chief presented our delegation with a live goat and a huge bowl of guinea fowl eggs, which we donated to the nurses of the clinic.

Seeing so closely the fight for life in this impoverished area of the world moved me deeply. Billions of our brothers and sisters live on the margins, struggling to make a life for themselves and their families. After visiting Africa, I know I have to make room in my daily life for them in prayer, thoughts, learning more, donating, and advocating on their behalf.

I believe being pro-life challenges to me adjust my life so others can simply live.


Guest blogger Father David Garcia is the Clergy Outreach Adviser for Catholic Relief Services.

Posts from other pro-life advocates will be posted throughout Respect Life Month (October) at uscatholic.org/pro-life.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.