Medair, Health Ministry launch 24-hour Health Centres in Burao

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Trained Midwife Sahra Abdi reviews an ante-natal patient at the Dr Alag Health Centre in BuraoBy: Elizabeth Murekio/Medair

BURAO (Somalilandsun) – It was a joyous day at the Dr Alag Health Centre on March 27. Two mothers experience difficulties deliveries – one with high-blood pressure and another with breach twins – had delivered their babies safely during the night.

Just three months before, this would not have been possible. In a region, where UNICEF estimates one out of every 12 women dies due to pregnancy related causes, the consequences may have been dire.

“Before February 2013, our operating hours were from 7.30am to 14.00pm,” said Sahra Abdi, trained Midwife at the Dr Alag Health Centre in Burao Somaliland.

If a mother’s water broke after these hours, she would have to deliver at home with the assistance of a traditional birth attendant, or go to the Burao District Hospital, which has been struggling with congestion in its maternity wing.

In February 2013, Medair in collaboration with the Ministry of Health rolled out 24-hour, seven-day operations at the Dr Alag, Central, and Farah Omar health centres in Burao.

The primary motivation was to provide a trained midwife assisted delivery service around the clock. Before then, the only facility offering this service after 2 pm was the Burao District Hospital which was overwhelmed by normal deliveries. Most of the women would just deliver at home.

“Women in this area have beenMedair Reproductive Health Manager Rebecca Anyumba and Trained Midwife Sahra Abdi in one of two baby delivery rooms at the Dr Alag Health Centre in Burao delivering at home with the assistance of traditional birth attendants (TBA). When complications arise, they may not be dealt with on time and the consequences could be tragic,” said Rebecca Anyumba Medair’s Reproductive Health Manager.

The lack of registered trained midwives has been a long lasting problem which delayed the implementation of 24 hours opening of those three facilities. It was overcome by the midwives’ motivation: most of them accepted to work overtime to cover the 24 hour. The impact has been tremendous for those three clinics, from three deliveries in January; it increased to 102 in March and 155 in April.

The midwives were ready to attend those extra deliveries as they had received extra training. “We trained the midwives on basic emergency obstetric and neo-natal care (BEmONC), to improve their delivery skills –how to take care of mothers, basic use of antibiotics, and dealing with emergencies –among others,” said Rebecca.

The training was done in collaboration with the Somaliland Midwifery Association and the Ministry of Health. Among the trainees were 13 midwives working in 21 of the health facilities Medair supports in Burao and surrounding areas.

Now in their third month, the only services being offered for 24 hours are deliveries because “it has the most live saving impact to both women and new born Fabienne Ray, Medair Health Project Manager said.

These additional operating hours have been well received by residents.

“It has not only benefited mothers and their babies but also decongested Burao Hospital to some extent,” said Midwife adding that they only refer deliveries with complications to the Burao Hospital now.

And the numbers of women delivering in Dr Alag have risen significantly in the last months.

“In April, 59 mothers had delivered at Dr Alag. In March we had 46 mothers,” Rebecca said smiling.

Before that the highest number that had ever delivered at the health centre in any given month was 1 to 5, according to Midwife Sahra.

“These efforts will go a long way in reducing maternal mortality rates, because mothers will be attended by a skilled birth attendant and in case of emergency there is an ambulance to take the mother to the Burao District Hospital,” said Rebecca.

All services offered at the health centres are free, thanks to the support of Medair donors, Swiss Solidarity, the E.C. Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development, UNICEF and the World Food Programme

Medair has strengthened our efforts to reduce maternal mortality rates, Midwife Sahra said. “The health centre is open 24 hours; there is an ambulance available to transport mothers in emergency. They also receive immunization, nutrition support and health education for free to ensure their new-borns have the best chance of surviving,” said Midwife Sahra.

Medair’s work in Somalia/Somaliland is supported by Swiss Solidarity, the E.C. Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development, Woord en Daad, Help a Child, EO Metterdaad, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and private donations from Medair supporters.

Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991. Its independence has not been recognised by the international community.

Elizabeth Murekio

Field Communication Officer

Contact: Somaliland Field Communication Officer fco-som@medair.org or Switzerland Media Officer Janneke.deKruijf@medair.org.

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