Sudan’s midwives saving lives amidst COVID-19
UNICEF’s Maternal and Newborn Health Project contributes to the safety of mothers and babies in West Darfur
The first 1000 days between the start of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday is a critical period. This is when the child lays the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across their lifespan.
UNICEF is supporting Sudan’s Ministry of Health to ensure health and nutrition for women and their children. This includes access to quality antenatal care services (ANC) like medical check-ups, immunization, nutrition and health education. It also includes support for safe childbirth and post-natal care for both mothers and newborns, as well as counselling and support for exclusive breast feeding.
In West Darfur, most newborn (neonatal) deaths are believed to take place at home, where the majority of childbirths occur. The three top causes of newborn deaths are infection, asphyxia (which means a lack of oxygen in the body) and preterm birth. These deaths can be prevented.
It is important that every newborn has access to a qualified and well-equipped health service provider, particularly in rural areas. Despite the limitations caused by COVID-19, UNICEF and West Darfur’s State Ministry of Health have conducted training on Early Essential Newborn Care for 50 community midwives. The midwives were divided into two groups so that social distancing could be maintained, and they were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Faiqa Abdullah Tijani, 57 years old, is one of the trainees and she has over 35 years of experience as a midwife in her village of Dorty, El Geneina locality in West Darfur state. “It is my first time to attend such a workshop which is very important for me as a midwife. I learned how to revive a newborn after assessing their initial condition with resuscitation, as well as the correct way of assessing chest pressure and breathing for the newborn from their first cry. My main job is providing care for women who are about to give birth and ensuring a safe delivery for both babies and mothers.”
With COVID-19 affecting everyone, Faiqa also now knows how to safely continue her work while protecting herself and others. “When I return to my village, I will apply everything we learned in the workshop, especially amid the coronavirus disease, which has no cure yet. All we can do is practice preventive measures such as washing hands with water and soap, using hand sanitizer and face masks for all, even the mothers in case of delivery.”
I learned how to revive a newborn after assessing their initial condition with resuscitation, as well as the correct way of assessing chest pressure and breathing for the newborn from their first cry. My main job is providing care for women who are about to give birth and ensuring a safe delivery for both babies and mothers.
Zeinab Yahya Dom, 24 years old, is also a trainee and has been a midwife at a health centre in Sirba locality for five years.
“I learned a lot from this workshop including: “The Delivery Plan”, which determines who the midwife will be, and who will accompany the woman to the hospital. It also determines what the baby will require, in a way that saves costs; “The Resuscitation” which should start immediately after the first minute from birth if the baby is not crying, I must provide the fluid, tube aspirator, and antiseptics, then the baby must be transferred to the hospital. But my job is to save the baby’s life”.
Zeinab is grateful for attending the training and describes her passion for and dedication to ensuring that the babies and their mothers in her community are healthy. “This workshop is extremely important because it prevents many neonatal deaths and it is our duty to provide care for pregnant women and babies at all times. COVID-19 will not stop my work because we now will take the right preventative and protective measures”.
I learned a lot from this workshop including; “The Delivery Plan”, which determines who the midwife will be, and who will accompany the woman to the hospital. It also determines what the baby will require, in a way that saves costs
Sudan’s National Health Sector Strategic Plan (2017-2021) reflects the commitment to improve Primary Health Care (PHC) coverage and quality with a special focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. This project will improve access to early essential and emergency newborn care services to newborn children and their mothers in West Darfur State within health facilities in all eight localities (districts) in the State and within the network of community midwives. With support from South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF) Project Implementation, funded by China, UNICEF is able to reach more newborns and their mothers with life-saving interventions.