Nemo Abdi Ahmed, age 20, left her remote village to attend the Midwifery Training School in Burao, Somaliland. A few years earlier, one of Nemo’s 17-year-old friends and a former classmate had died during childbirth. “That’s one of the main reasons that I want to learn these life saving skills,” Nemo said. “I want to prevent the deaths of mothers and children in my community. That’s why I want to be a midwife,” she added.
At the midwifery school, Nemo will have the opportunity to learn how to monitor mothers while they are pregnant, assist them during deliveries, and provide care for them and their babies after birth. Midwives are also trained to make early referrals to health facilities if there are any complications. In a rural village like Nemo’s, most of the women deliver with the assistance of traditional birth attendants, many of whom have not received any formal training. “Every day mothers are dying from bleeding, lack of care, and lack of basic health services. That’s why education can make a big change and benefit the community,” she says.
The common practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) causes additional complications during deliveries. “Circumcision creates problems,” Nemo says. “The major problem is fistula, because the traditional birth attendants try to cut to increase the birth passage, but they don’t have the skills or the knowledge, and they don’t have the proper tools, which can cause great amounts of damage,” she continues, shaking her head.
In Nemo’s community, the majority of women have been circumcised. However, Nemo believes that the practice of female circumcision will slowly fade away as people begin to realize the negative effects that it has on women’s health. “It’s too difficult for the women to give birth when they have been circumcised,” she says. “It’s unnecessary. It creates too many problems for women. Periods can not take place in a normal way, delivery is a problem, sexual intercourse is also a problem, and it’s uncomfortable because the normality has been completely changed,” she continues. “People just need more effective education and awareness. Once people have been educated then the practice of circumcision will decrease,” she says. Once she has completed her midwifery training, Nemo will be able to share this knowledge with her community and, in turn, save the lives of the women and children in her village.
The lifesaving Midwifery Training Programme in Burao, Somaliland is made possible by the Somali Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP).