Doing it for mums who can't go the distance

RUNNER'S TALE: Tara Taubenschlag joins the half-marathon on Saturday in support of a charity for poor mothers in ...
RUNNER'S TALE: Tara Taubenschlag joins the half-marathon on Saturday in support of a charity for poor mothers in developing countries. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

While Australian women going into labour may face an anxious car ride to hospital, just across the Torres Strait, many women in Papua New Guinea face a five-hour walk to the nearest healthcare centre.

It's enough for many of them not to bother, especially since many can't afford the hospital fee of up to $4.50, and don't want to face the shame of not having clothes, nappies or soap for their newborn.

As a result, women in PNG are 33 times more likely to die in childbirth than in Australia.

On Sunday, Tara Taubenschlag will be running the Australian Running Festival half-marathon in Canberra to highlight the fact that distance is one of the greatest contributors to maternal mortality.

''I figured if a pregnant woman can walk four or five hours, 20 or 30 kilometres, to get to a health service, I can do a half-marathon, so that's when I began to run,'' she said.

Mrs Taubenschlag is now a board member of Send Hope Not Flowers, a charity that encourages people to send donations to help mothers in developing countries in lieu of flowers to new mothers.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has thrown her support behind the charity, and will don a Send Hope T-shirt when she runs the 10km event on Saturday.

Mrs Taubenschlag, a mother of two, felt compelled to get involved in Send Hope after hearing ''distressing'' stories from the Canberra obstetrician who co-founded the charity, Dr Steve Robson.

''I had a 36-hour labour and ended up having an emergency [caesarean] … I had the best hospital facilities in Australia, amazing midwives, amazing obstetricians, and it was still a difficult birth,'' she said.

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''Luckily I ended up with a healthy baby in the end, but had I been in PNG or East Timor or the Solomon Islands or remote parts of Indonesia, I wouldn't have.''

Send Hope partners with a number of organisations, training midwives in Indonesia, providing emergency kits for hospitals in the Solomon Islands, or in the case of a health clinic in Milne Bay, PNG, providing free kits of essential items to mothers who give birth there.

The ''baby bundles'', which cost less than $30 each, are proving a powerful incentive for women to have a supervised birth, and the local maternal mortality rate is dropping.

It's a cheap price to pay to save a life, and less than the average cost of sending a bouquet, which is often just left behind at the hospital when mum and bub go home.

Mrs Taubenschlag said the donations are well-received.

''It's a beautiful card that we send - it's the Send Hope story, it tells them about the different projects we're funding … and says a donation has been made in your honour,'' she said.