Today we introduce our charity of the month for July…. The African Maternity Link- Improving birth outcomes through education and training. Thanks to Oli Jeacock for showcasing the fantastic work that they do.
A Midwife’s Diary
Its 2AM in the morning and you’ve been woken up as a woman is in labour. She is attending the small clinic, that you run, to have her baby. You light some candles in the dusty rooms and sigh once again, because, for the hundredth night in a row nobody has the money to provide the clinic with a generator. This means it is impossible to light up the 3 tiny, dark rooms during the night.
You greet the woman outside, who is well known to you as she has attended, thankfully, 4 antenatal appointments during her pregnancy. She looks scared, it’s her second baby. With her first baby, she suffered problems during labour and underwent a long labour at home, only attending a professional clinic when problems began to arise. Understandably, having a baby in one of the most high risk countries in the world is not a time for excitement but rather a time for luck and prayer.
You are the only acting midwife here tonight as your two colleagues are resting ready for the busy day shift. Antenatal clinic, postnatal and under 5’s immunisation clinic are on tomorrows agenda. In this small unit (one of hundreds in Sierra Leone) you work alone tonight, as a maternity care assistant, 2 hours drive from the nearest hospital; hoping to provide a live birth for this woman and for her to survive the process too.
Sierra Leone is a very poor country, with the majority of areas experiencing extreme depravation. Stories like this are every day reality for the healthcare professionals here. The slums are incredibly heartbreaking, with families living amongst piles of rubbish surrounded by pigs, on land which is renowned for flooding during the rainy season.
Sierra Leone has a huge shortage of trained midwives, with it being common for a newly qualified midwife to be the only midwife in the unit with a couple of maternity care assistants to help, if they’re lucky. It’s common that no ongoing support or training is offered, despite many of the midwives being newly qualified. Without any other qualified colleagues to assist in decision making or receive guidance from it makes working in these units incredibly hard on the mind and body.
The women are at high risk due to the unit having a lack of consistent lighting, electricity and an inadequate water supply. Lack of these basic resources leads to a lack of basic midwifery equipment or lifesaving drugs, plus minimal assistance with obstetric emergencies. It, understandably, is not only a difficult job to do but also an incredibly frightening time for the mother to be.
Since the end of Ebola, The African Maternity Link has begun working with over 40 units across the Western area and is now beginning to branch out into rural districts. The team work by inviting midwives, and all other health care professionals, from each unit to our two day workshops. We teach and update them on all aspects of midwifery care within the antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal period, including scenario role play, obstetric emergencies, neonatal resuscitation and most importantly – training others and cascading skills. We then follow up 3 months later in their own units with ongoing, on the job training.
What we have achieved so far
It really has been fantastic to see the progress in Sierra Leone and hear great feedback of our work especially when the skills we have taught have been saving lives. Learning how to correctly manage obstetric emergencies is a key aspect of our teaching. Midwives have been able to discuss with us times when they have had to use the skills and protocols we have taught them to ensure a healthy mum and baby with a very good outcome.
3 years ago 1:8 women died in childbirth in Sierra Leone, (In the UK it is 1:100,000). Thanks to all the efforts of the local midwives and healthcare teams working closely with international charities that statistic is now 1:21. This is a statistic that without the generosity of charitable donations from people in the UK would not have been possible to change.
Training needs to be done regularly, especially in the case of critical thinking, obstetric emergencies and neonatal resuscitation. However, the progress that these units have made in recent years and particularly since the catastrophic events of Ebola is something they should be very proud of. We have enabled these hard working health professionals to be more competent practitioners and to enable them to make life changing decisions confidently and competently, by giving them the skills to do so.
All this really would not be possible without the input from kind donors to The African Maternity Link, whether regular donations or through our events. We are always so incredibly grateful for every penny we receive and please be assured every donation has helped save the lives of so many new mothers and newborn babies.
What we plan to do
Our plans for development will be to branch further out of Freetown into the rural areas where there are even poorer and less equipped health units. We have started working in Magburaka and Bo – to see where we can roll out the programme and which organisations we can collaborate with to be most effective. We will also continue maintaining updates for the healthcare providers in our units around Freetown.
There are constantly challenges, with only a small part of Sierra Leone reachable with our funding. We want to continue to replicate the incredible work that has been done, to more women and more families in further rural areas of Sierra Leone.
We are always looking for people who may want to fundraise or help us whether it is a sponsored walk, run, a clothing sale, a gin marathon or a donut eating competition! If you are interested in raising money for the mamas of Sierra Leone then please do get in touch via our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are working closely with local businesses so if you think your workplace may like to sponsor our charity then do get in touch. We are always interested in coming to talk to people about our charity whether it is an organized occasion, a work event or the local WI meeting. If you would like The African Maternity Link to come to your event then do email us!
Equally, we are initiating a ‘10lb Baby’ campaign aiming to increase our monthly £10 donations to improve consistency in mentorship from us here in the UK to those in Sierra Leone. This means healthcare professionals can recieve better support, mentorship and consistent refreshment of skills. £10 a month will enable one health care worker to attend a full two day workshop which, over a year, is 12 midwives attending with just a £10 monthly donation from one person! If you would be interested in setting up a monthly direct debit to us then please email email@example.com. You’ll be automatically signed up to our 6 monthly newsletter.