midwives

{Fatimata Kané, Project Director of the FCI Program of MSH in Mali.} Photo Credit: Catherine LalondeFatimata Kané, Project Director of the FCI Program of MSH in Mali.

(Français)

Putting a child on the earth is a whole different type of work. Not everyone can guide a woman and her baby safely through pregnancy and childbirth.

I know what it means to keep women and babies alive and healthy because I am a midwife.

As a young girl in Mali, I passed the village dispensary on my way to school every day. I felt sorry for the people lined up outside waiting for treatment for their illnesses. I always told myself that one day I would wear the white coat of health workers and help those who are sick. During my health education training, I studied midwifery because I wanted to educate, advise and assist women before, during, and after pregnancy. 

Although I stopped practicing midwifery in maternity wards, I apply my professional passion to my work with MSH. No matter where I am or what project I’m working on, I speak with midwives, visit community health centers, and counsel pregnant women about their health and about that of their children whenever I can. When I visit communities, I encourage women to go to their local clinics for prenatal exams and to breastfeed and vaccinate their babies.

World Health Worker Week (April 6-10, 2015) is an opportunity to mobilize communities, partners, and policymakers in support of health workers in your community and around the world. It is a time to celebrate, raise awareness, and renew commitments to health workers having the training, supplies and support they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Meet some of the health worker heroes among us!

Muhamed Mulongo, acting district health officer, Uganda

[Dr. Muhamed Mulongo] {Photo credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH}Dr. Muhamed MulongoPhoto credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH

Muhamed Mulongo decided when he was a boy to become a doctor after accompanying his sister to the hospital in the middle of the night during difficult labor. The baby died.

I said to myself, 'I should be a doctor I think'.

Now he is the only surgical doctor in the eastern Ugandan district of Bulambuli.

You work here only when you love your job.

You always have to improvise. You have no choice -- you have to save people in the process.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

This post originally appeared on the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) Blog as part of a series celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Lancet publishing “A Manifesto for Maternal Health post-2015,” co-authored by Ana Langer, Richard Horton, and Guerino Chalamilla.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Manifesto for Maternal Health, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) congratulates our global community, including ministries of health, their partners, and the women we serve and work with, on the progress made toward creating a healthier world for mothers and their babies.

Immaculée, seated, holding her twin boys. Thanks to the intervention of the center’s midwife, at left, both of these babies are now in good health. {Photo credit: IRC.}Photo credit: IRC.

Thirteen newborns die every hour in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). So on July 23, when 25-year old Immaculée went into labor with twins at the Monvu Reference Health Center in the Idjwi Health Zone, and her first twin was born without signs of life, the chances of survival were not in his favor.

The odds are stacked against newborns in the DRC: neonatal mortality hovers around 97 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and has done so for years, explaining the acute need for intervention in this area.

Recognizing this need, the USAID-funded DRC-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), in conjunction with the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Ministry of Public Health, organized a “Helping Babies Breathe” training in Kinshasa in April 2012, to build the capacity of health providers who oversee labor and delivery.

Helping Babies Breathe is an evidence-based neonatal resuscitation approach designed for resource-limited areas, which teaches health workers how to handle newborns’ breathing in their first minute of life, a critical period known as the “Golden Minute.”

Trying to cross through a flooded section of road in South Sudan. {Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.}Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.

“We’re going to try to drive through that?”

After spending nearly two years working in South Sudan, I was on my way with two colleagues to one final meeting. The USAID-funded second phase of the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), ended activities on July 31, 2012, and three of us needed to travel 360 kilometers (220 miles) to a results dissemination meeting. A flight booking mishap meant we had no choice but to drive --- during rainy season.

With a key bridge washed out.

And it rained --- down poured --- for over an hour the morning we left.

After passing several toppled trucks, overtaking pickups irrevocably mired in mud, and crossing through a river, we came across the point where I uttered the above quote (“We’re going to try to drive through that?”).

A woman and baby rest at St. Josephs' Health Center -- the only health institution in Abricots, Haiti. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Suzanna Ile, a 26-year-old woman from South Sudan, lost her first two babies in childbirth. Suzanna did not have a nurse or midwife to tell her that her pelvis was dangerously small for childbirth; nor was there a safe place for a caesarian section even if she had known the risk.

Suzanna’s experience is typical of what women have faced in South Sudan, the newest country in the world. South Sudan is home to 10 million people, spread across an area about the size of France. The people have experienced civil war off and on for five decades --- hardly anyone remembers a time without conflict. In places like the capital city of Juba, the infrastructure has been seriously damaged. The conflicts have devastated the economy and disrupted the education system.

South Sudan has some of the worst health indicators in the world. Health facilities are grossly understaffed as health workers fled the country: only ten percent of staff positions are appropriately filled. There are less than two doctors for every 100,000 people. A woman in South Sudan is five-hundred-times more likely to lose her life giving birth than a woman in Europe. Forty-five percent of children suffer from physical stunting due to malnutrition.

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