A delivery under the crackling of the bullets

“The pains were so intense that I thought my heart was going to stop”

Benjamin Kasongo (translated from French by Marianna Santos)
Jeanne et son bébé au camp de Katanika
15 March 2018

"After 4 or 5 kilometers of walking, I felt pains in the lower abdomen and then blood began to flow," says Jeanne, 34, who fled her village east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2017. "One evening around 5 pm, while my husband was fishing at the lake, soldiers broke into our village and shots were fired," recalls Jeanne. In a hurry, Jeanne collected some belongings and fled with her children.

Jeanne was then eight months pregnant and contractions began. "It was impossible to return to the village," says the young mother. The birth of a child is normally a moment of joy, an unforgettable moment for all mothers. But the story of Jeanne and the birth of little Paul is quite different. "I forced myself to reach another village but my feet did not want to move anymore," recalls Jeanne. Some women who had fled the village at the same time left to cut banana leaves to allow Jeanne to lie down. "For more than two hours, I screamed like an animal because of the pains I had never felt in my life," says Jeanne gave birth under the crackling of gunfire, lying on simple banana leaves.

"When Paul finally came out, some women recovered a reed to cut the umbilical cord and used an old loincloth to wrap him." 

An hour after the birth of little Paul, Jeanne faces a new pain: the contractions for the expulsion of the placenta. "The pains were so intense that I thought my heart was going to stop," continues Jeanne, with tears in her eyes. It was only late into the night that Jeanne expelled her placenta. "The mothers who accompanied me took me by the hand to Katibili where we arrived around 2 am," says Jeanne, stating that it was very cold that night.

"After spending three days in Katibili, we joined the camp in Kalemie and, a few weeks later, my husband arrived here," says Jeanne, relieved. Since they settled in Katanika camp, located about ten kilometers’ south-west of the Kalemie village, the situation for Jeanne and her children is still complicated. Paul, who is now 4 months old, has not received any vaccine yet. Cholera and malnutrition are constant threats on the camp.