‘’Between me, mama Safia and Bisharo, it is not less than 10,000 babies,’’ -meet Safia, Farhia and Bisharo, midwives in Somalia.
Written by: Said Isse, Advocacy, Campaigns, Communication and Media manager
Photos: Said Fadhaye, and Kate Stanworth/Save the Children
Interviews: Kate Stanworth and Said Isse
Today, under the theme of “Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives,” we celebrate with three midwives who work in a hospital in Eastern Somalia’s Puntland region. Safia, Farhia and Bisharo have been working in Gardo General Hospital for a very long period and have seen the transformation of the hospital from a Health centre to one of the largest hospitals in Somalia, thanks to funds from the United Kingdom.
Safia Jama is a 59 years old midwife. Today, she has helped Amin, a baby boy, to take his first breath in this world. He is one of the thousands of babies Safia delivered. The baby's mother arrived in the hospital after community health workers in her village advised her to go to the hospital as she complained about sleeplessness and lack of appetite. Her neighbors told her that maternity section of Gardo General hospital is free of charge.
"I am happy that I'm doing this job. Many who were born in the hospital meet me in the streets, but I can't recognize each of them," Safia told me.
"But as long as they recognize me, I'm happy."
She lived in Gardo all her life, and when she was only 18, she was trained as a midwife to support the local health facility in Gardo, which is now Gardo Hospital.
"When I started working here, Gardo was a tiny village. It is now almost 40 years. The health service was fragile and traditional birth attendants were very popular here," Safia said.
The hospital supports thousands of mothers and their children every year. Today, it is the largest hospital in the region and provides service to over 300,000 people who used to go to places like Bossaso or in many cases pregnant mother used to get help from traditional birth attendant who have a low skill. Due to this, the mortality rate was high, and mothers delivering with the support of traditional birth attendants faced the risks of losing their babies.
Last year, across Somalia, Save the Children supported 2,935,649 people; 47.4% were children (487,544 boys and 529,983 girls), were reached with various live-saving health and nutrition interventions. Save the Children provided comprehensive support to 2,851 MOH staff across 234 fixed public health facilities and 162 mobile sites.
UK Government support
The UK Government supports the maternity section of the hospital. Jama Mohamed Da’ar, Health program manager, working for Save the Children, says: "Before UK support, there was no maternity and child health section in the hospital."
"When we started, home delivery was very high. People were using traditional midwives, who often don't have the skills and knowledge and may end up harming the baby."
Farhia and Bisharo.
In this hospital, few other midwives share the aspiration to support babies and their mothers with Safia. Farhiya and Bishara are colleagues of Safia in the maternity section. They have worked with her for about 12 years now.
Farhiya has been working as a midwife in Gardo General Hospital since 2007. She studied midwifery in Bosaso, one of the main towns in Puntland, and she is now the head of maternity in the hospital.
"I delivered 30 children, and maybe I will deliver 26 or 27 more. So how can I remember the total number of children I delivered since 2007?
"I can't tell the exact figure, but I can say between me, mama Safia and Bisharo, it is not less than 10,000 babies because we have been here since 2007.
"Mama Safia, come here before us. Her story is inspiring to every one of us.
Bisharo has been working in the hospital for 18 years as a midwife. She has seen significant improvements in the service offered since starting work here. Initially, people had to pay for medicines and treatments, but since the Save the Children project started, they have been offered free. As a result, she has seen an increased demand for the service, with mothers choosing to come here from miles around rather than risk a potentially unsafe birth with traditional midwives, who don't have professional knowledge, skills or resources. She has also received training, including family planning, for which she travelled to Kenya, supported by Save the Children.
"here is a big difference between the traditional and the professional midwives. The traditional ones don't have the capacity and skills. Also, medicines are a big issue. For example, they are not able to stop bleeding and can't measure blood pressure. When mothers come here, they can monitor everything. The service is improving a lot for both the mother and child.