Ensuring safe maternal and child health for returnees in Sudan

Publié: 3 septembre 2013 15:41 CET

By Susan Onyango, IFRC

Asha Elkhaeer makes her way to respond to a distress call early one morning. There is a mother in labour in a village five kilometres away. Asha rushes to the clinic to collect her delivery kit, then goes to assist the mother in labour. Four hours later, she delivers a healthy, baby boy. Asha remains at the home for another six hours to ensure that both mother and baby are well.

Asha is one of two trained midwives at the Sudanese Red Crescent clinic in Abu Ramad village, El Jabalain, White Nile State. The clinic serves 1,400 households and has two other staff, a medical assistant and a laboratory technician, both employed by the Ministry of Health. Asha and the other midwife, who are not employed by the government, charge 50 Sudanese pounds (11 US dollars) for each delivery, although if the mother does not have any money, they will do it for free. They deliver an average of 15 babies each month.

Asha also runs prenatal clinics, during which expectant mothers can get their blood pressure checked and can also access to folic acid.  

Today’s delivery is one of the easier ones Asha has made. Deliveries normally take place at home. She administers pain killer injections and stitches up the mothers after delivery. Where labour is prolonged, mothers are brought to the clinic for medication to speed up the process. More complicated cases – including caesarean sections – are referred to a nearby hospital.

“Working conditions are difficult, especially with the lack of essential supplies such as gloves. I also have to travel distances to reach my patients, even in the night,” says Asha. “It can get very hot and dusty, but I have to ensure that mothers deliver their babies in as safe conditions as possible.”

In some extreme cases, patients are brought to the clinic in advanced labour and deliver their babies on the gravel outside before Asha can get there from her house. As the clinic does not have any electricity, Asha has even made some deliveries using a flashlight.

Patients from the surrounding community are mainly returnees from South Sudan. At the clinic, they can access basic medical care to treat ailments like malaria, rheumatism, dysentery, as well as chest and gynaecological infections.

To continue providing such valuable services, the Sudanese Red Crescent equips the clinic using funds from USAID through an emergency appeal launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2012. Interventions included supporting primary health care and mobile clinics in targeted states with the provision of medical equipment and medication.

A new appeal, launched in May 2013 aims to continue providing support to 150,000 returnees and internally displaced persons across 11 states over eight months by providing them with relief items and basic services including shelter, emergency health, water and sanitation.