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Giving life a leading cause of death for women in Sudan

© Alam Eldeen Tingillo/UNICEF Sudan/2012
Safe and sound: A delighted Fawzia holds her baby after a safe hospital delivery

LIKE many women in Sudan, Fawzia Ibrahim Ishag relied on traditional birth attendants to help deliver her babies at home.  There were complications during five deliveries for which the attendants had neither the medical training nor the equipment to deal with.  Luckily, Fawzia and her babies survived.  But after learning that she was expecting her sixth child, Fawzia – who lives in Mornei’s sprawling IDP camp – decided not to take the risk and instead chose to deliver using a trained, qualified midwife at an equipped health centre.

“Delivering in hospital is much better than delivering at home with a traditional birth attendant. The services provided in the centre are good and the midwives took care of me.  If Allah allows me to conceive again, I will definitely deliver at this hospital.  I know that my baby and I will be in very good hands.”

Fawzia safely gave birth to a healthy baby boy last month at Mornei’s Basic Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care Center. 

“Delivering in hospital is much better than delivering at home with a traditional birth attendant,” Fawzia said, clearly relieved as she cradled her newborn son.

“The services provided in the centre are good and the midwives took care of me.  If Allah allows me to conceive again, I will definitely deliver at this hospital.  I know that my baby and I will be in very good hands.”

Mornei, in the savannah of West Darfur, was once an ideal place to live for a population of 5,000 who sustained themselves comfortably. Regional conflict scattered most of Darfur’s people in 2003, with 74,000 or so arriving to take refuge in Mornei, turning it into one of the most densely populated camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Darfur.

Basic services for women and children were woefully inadequate for the increased population.  The nearest clinic was in Geniena, more than four hours’ journey, putting it beyond reach for women in labour at night, or facing life-threatening complications.  For Fawzia, who fled to Mornei when fighting engulfed her village 50 km away, traditional birth attendants seemed the only option.

Giving life remains a leading cause of death for women in Sudan, which prompted UNICEF and other partners to invest in training new midwives, educating women in how and where to seek help and establishing equipped specialist clinics to deal with complications associated with labour.

The basic Emergency Obstetric and NeoNatal Care Centre in Mornei Hospital, which was established at the end of 2009, has two delivery rooms, one minor theatre and ten beds catering for pregnant women with pre and post-natal complications.   It has taken some time for women to shift their trust from traditional birth attendants to qualified midwives, but the hospital is now delivering 50 babies each month, referring a handful of emergencies and complicated cases to Geneina for more specialist care. The results speak for themselves:  the number of maternal deaths in Mornei in 2006 was 1,056, within four years, that figure had dropped to 332.

UNICEF’s humanitarian partners now manage the centre, led by a medical doctor, with UNICEF providing technical expertise and essential supplies and the State Ministry of Health providing eight trained midwives.

With the continued support of funding and implementing partners and the government, UNICEF hopes to improve maternal and child health services in Mornei further still, to ensure that more women like Fawzia have access to safe services.

 

 
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