“I always feel relieved whenever I am able to save two lives,” Amira
UNICEF equips midwives to support safe childbirths during the conflict
When Amira Khameis, a trained midwife fled Khartoum after intense fighting, she worried about the mothers she supported daily during childbirth. She worried about the newborns she held and ensured they were delivered safely and their mothers safe.
For the past 24 years, Amira has supported mothers before, during and after childbirth.
Saving the lives of a mothers and children motivate her every day -a calling she is passionate about and not even the recent displacement will stop her.
For decades, midwives like Amira have been helping to save the lives of mothers and newborns. In Sudan, 110,000 babies are born every month. Without Amira and her peers’ services, many mothers and children will be at risk of death and complications.
Pregnant and displaced – the impact of war
Imagine being displaced and pregnant. Unsure about the safety of your unborn child and if you will have access to skilled care to support their safe delivery and survival. Sadly, this is the reality of thousands of pregnant women on the move and uprooted following the ongoing fighting in Sudan. Many risk giving birth without medical help and in unsanitary conditions.
Bothered by this trend, Amira remains committed to supporting mothers, doing all she can to save every mother and child within her reach. But without the necessary equipment, she remained frustrated.
"I didn't have midwifery instruments, or any equipment, but I have been doing my best to help the mothers by monitoring their pregnancies, distributing vitamins, ensuring their overall health, and encouraging them to go to the hospital for check-ups. I observed the symptoms approaching labor, and when the time came, I accompanied them to the hospital," Amina reminisced.
UNICEF provides midwifery equipment
At Madani Midwifery School, six midwives wearing traditional white tops, normally worn by government employees and health workers, converge. Although it is no longer popular like before, the midwives still adhere to wearing white as it symbolizes purity, dedication, and discipline. Amira is among them.
They discuss the horrors of the war that is impacting pregnant women and exposing many to unsafe childbirth. They also map out how they can reach every pregnant mother to ensure they deliver with their support. This includes moving from one gathering shelter for displaced people to another – examining mothers and supporting urgent referrals to hospitals to save lives. It will require all hands-on deck.
The UNICEF team is also at the school to provide the dedicated frontline workers with health equipment they need to support their work.
For decades, UNICEF midwifery kits complete with equipment have been helping to save the lives of mothers and newborns around the world. They are designed to improve maternal and neonatal care in situations of development and emergency.
One by one the midwives receive health equipment amidst ululations
Amira cannot hide her excitement. Since she arrived in Madani she longed to have the necessary equipment to ably support mothers. She remembered her midwifery bag left behind when her family fled Khartoum.
"We left everything behind and escaped on foot, me and my children, with no specific destination. I didn't bring anything with me, not even the midwifery bag, which is the most important thing I own," Amira shared.
“UNICEF has equipped midwives with all equipment needed to support safe deliveries,” Dr. Ehsan Mohammed, UNICEF Health Officer confirmed. “This will help reduce deaths among mothers and newborns.
Excited and equipped the midwives breakout in an Arabic song often sang during childbirth while encouraging mothers deliver their newborns. They couldn’t hide the joy and excitement.
Amira, the hero saving lives during conflict
At Al-Madinah shelter for displaced people, a group of pregnant women await Amira’s arrival. This time she is equipped with her midwifery bag and confident. Unlike before she can now examine and support all the mothers without any hinderance.
"For example, this mother came a few days ago, and I didn't have gloves, but through external examination, I informed her that the baby had not yet engaged into the right birth position. I advised her to visit the hospital for an ultrasound to confirm if the cervix was ready for delivery soon.”
“With the tools I have now, I can confirm to her that the time has come, and she must go to the hospital if the baby's head is still up."
With the equipment, and skills, Amira can now ably support the mothers to ensure they deliver safely and report to the hospital in time.
The equipment procured with support from the Government of Japan contains basic instruments, renewable medical supplies, medical equipment and basic sterilisation and resuscitation equipment for community midwives to provide clean and safe delivery services for women and their babies.
"I can't describe how I felt when I received the midwifery bag. Now I am ready to support mothers with these tools. I can save the lives of both the mother and child," she shared as her voice choked with emotion.
During the conflict, UNICEF is increasing access of maternal and new-born care services at health facilities and community levels through distribution of reproductive health supplies and training of midwives on standard obstetric care including neonatal resuscitation.
“I thank God for giving me this profession, and I will continue to be strong and help mothers in safe childbirth," Amira concluded.