Darfur voices: The midwife

Nineteen year-old *Salima is expecting her first baby; It’s early morning and already the wooden benches are filling up with pregnant women waiting for their checkups or women who have successfully given birth and waiting to have their new born babies seen.

Salima joins the queue, clutching a piece of paper that has registered the progress she is making. She waits patiently to be called.

“I’m happy to come to this clinic, she says, my baby is moving around inside, and the clinic checks that everything is alright.

“They take care of me and my unborn baby.”

A clinic run by Caritas’s partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) in the Hassa Hissa camp in Sudan’s Central Darfur region. Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Hassa Hissa camp in Sudan’s Central Darfur region hosts just over 60,000 people. The clinic is a very important building inside the camp as its services reach out to the host communities as well as those living inside the camps.

Caritas’s partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) have been running the clinics for the last ten years, ensuring that essential medicines are stocked on the shelves, and that essential mother and child health care services are available. The clinic offers ante and post-natal care, health education, and safe delivery facilities with trained midwives.

However, most women’s experiences of giving birth will be inside their camp dwellings with a traditional birth attendant (TBA) – who tend to be wizened elder ladies in the community with no formal training.

Recognising that the lives of mothers and babies could be in safer hands, if the TBAs were trained, NCA has teamed up with the Ministry of Health, they have supported the training of traditional birth attendants (TBAs).

Midwife Toma in her clinic. Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

“This clinic is vital for women; here we can spot complications early on in the pregnancy, as well as teach women about the danger signs to look out for, says Midwife Toma.

“However, when their time comes, most women will struggle to find a doctor or a trained midwife inside the camp, and a trained TBA can be the difference between life and death.”

The training involves promoting good hygiene practices, such as the simple step of washing hands with soap before starting a deliver, to reduce the spread of infections; using a clean razor blade for every delivery.

Midwife Toma delivers around fifteen to twenty babies a month. She continues:

“These are simple life-saving steps.

“We mustn’t forget that when a child enters the world it will look to its mother for all its needs.
“It is she who will provide their daily bread and their education.”

It’s Salima’s turn to see Midwife Toma, and the stark reality of her working conditions is evident when you walk into her small dark consulting room. There are no bleeping baby monitoring machines, only a bed with a tattered screen around it.

Midwife Toma’s silver foetal trumpet and her skilled hands are the only technology – as she carefully feels for the baby’s position and listens to its heart beat with her foetal trumpet.

She looks up at Salima and smiles, ‘baby is okay’, she says.

*Name changed on request


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