Crossing The River

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This interactive web documentary follows the struggle for life of four passionate female health professionels in Sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality registers the highest rates in the world.

  • €18,500 Budget in Euros
  • 2018 Final release date
  • 9 Round winner
  • 3 Locations
  • 7 Durations in months


CROSSING THE RIVER is an ongoing series of print and online publications throughout Europe and Africa, radio interviews, short videos, a data journalism survey, a web documentary, a short documentary movie, and a traveling photo exhibition.
For information: [email protected]

A project by Emanuela Zuccalà
Photo by Valeria Scrilatti
Curated by Zona

Betty, Flaviour, Halima and Natalia don’t know each other, yet these four African women are engaged in the same battle against one of the most resistant and anachronistic wounds that affect their continent: maternal mortality.
Every year in the world 303,000 women lose their lives due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and for another 10 million becoming a mother means to carry diseases and infections throughout their lives.
If 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for 66%. Here, for a woman, a natural event such as motherhood can turn into an unpredictable adventure, like crossing an unknown river. Today in Africa, in 100,000 childbirths there are still 546 mothers who don’t survive, compared to 12 in the more developed areas of the planet. Over her reproductive lifespan, an African woman has one chance in 36 of dying during childbirth, while for a European or North American mother the risk is only one in 4,900.
The most frequent cause of death is hemorrhage, followed by infections, hypertension, and abortions. According to the World Health Organization, the majority of these losses could be avoided with adequate diagnosis and quality obstetric-gynecological assistance.

Betty, Flaviour, Halima and Natalia are health professionals in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mozambique, nations with very poor women’s health indicators.
In the Ugandan region of Karamoja, Betty Agan is the chief-midwife in a rural healthcare facility and, thanks to her innovative approach to women, she has been persuading more and more mothers to give birth with her, in safe conditions.
Flaviour Nhawu works as a public health specialist in Sierra Leone, the country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world: in the southern district of Bonthe, she is seriously improving healthcare services for women.
Halima Haruna Yusuf
is a doctor in an almost completely destroyed town in Borno, the Nigerian state most affected by Boko Haram attacks, where women are paying the highest price of the conflict.
Natalia Chimundi is a psychologist in Beira, Mozambique: she sensitizes young women on the subject of HIV, which in the country has one of the highest spreads in the world.

Their personal stories, marked by an uncommon obstinacy, tell how in some places of the world motherhood can turn out to be an authentic struggle for life. And how solidarity between women can be one of the keys to promote the women’s right to health.

Photo Valeria Scrilatti

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