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Somewhere in the world a woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of birth. Of these deaths, 99 per cent occur in developing countries. The vast majority are preventable.
Australia is one of the safest places to have a baby in the world. Here, women face a risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth of less than one in 10,000. In stark contrast neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea, remote parts of Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, this figure is a staggering one in 20. When mothers die, they leave more than one million children behind each year.
Dr Barry Kirby decided on a radical career change while working as a carpenter and project manager building houses in the remote region of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, in 1990.
Barry helped drive a gravely ill woman to hospital after finding her by the side of the road. Sadly she later died. However the impact of seeing the devastation and grief caused by the failing health system in Papua New Guinea prompted Barry to take action.
Barry completed a premedical honours degree in Biomedical Science at Griffith University, Queensland in 1995. He moved on to graduated with his MBBS from the University of Papua New Guinea in 2002 at age 52 and obtained his Australian Medical registration after passing the AMC examinations in 2007, while working as an ED doctor at Redlands Hospital, Brisbane. In 2008 Barry returned to PNG and in 2010 he went back to the University of Papua New Guinea, where he undertook a Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Barry now lives in Alotau, Milne Bay Province, and is working with the Australian maternal health charity Send Hope Not Flowers to address maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea.
You can read more about Dr Barry Kirby and his work on the Send Hope Not Flowers website.