Fadumo Mohamed Ahmed, age 45, has been working as a midwife for nearly thirty years and teaches young midwives at the Midwifery Training School in Burao, Somaliland. A jolly woman, Fadumo laughs at the fact that she was even present at some of her students’ births. Although she has trained many midwives, Fadumo stresses that there is still a lack of skilled birth attendants in the communities, “We don’t have enough midwives until we have a midwife in every village,” she says.
Women from the most rural communities are given priority for enrollment at the Midwifery School. Once at the school, the women learn how to care for pregnant mothers and their children before, during and after delivery. They also learn the basics of caring for the newborn baby, breastfeeding, hygiene, and infection control, in order to educate and raise awareness of these topics in rural communities. “Every girl when she graduates from here gets a box, and she has everything. If someone comes to her in the village and says, ‘my wife is in labour,’ she runs,” Fadumo says. The role of the midwives is to provide as much care as they can within communities that have no other facilities. The midwives are trained specifically to make early referrals to health clinics or hospitals. “When they see women that they can not help in their home, they make an early referral to prevent problems,” Fadumo adds.
In addition to the lack of facilities in remote areas, the lack of education is also a challenge. Fadumo explains, “People don’t know how to use health facilities. Some of them don’t understand the benefits of midwives and health care centres.” Most women in these communities have no resources available to assist them in giving birth. “There’s no doctor, there’s no midwife, there isn’t anyone. So, when a woman goes into labour, she doesn’t have anyone to help. If you think of that image you become very sad,” she adds, shaking her head.
Fadumo’s wish is that when the trained midwives return to their rural towns, they will be able to help their communities. “I hope that when they go back to their villages, they can reduce the death of women and children,” she says. Many of the young women at the school are the first to be educated and will be the first to bring the knowledge of safe childbirth back to their homes. “If the community sees one girl from their village who learned something and educates them, then I think this programme will make a change,” Fadumo says, smiling.
The lifesaving Midwifery Training Programme in Burao, Somaliland is made possible by the Somali Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP). The programme supports 11 other similar schools across Somalia.