On Wednesday this week the Mama Maisha Coordinator and Advisor went out to one of our target villages to do a training for more Traditional Birth Attendants about how to use the Hygienic Birth Kits we are providing through a grant from Mennonite Central Committee. They went with a Dutch medical resident who is volunteering at Shirati Hospital and wanted to see what Mama Maisha is all about. Well, she had a front row seat!
When they arrived in Nyambogo, they were notified that there was a young woman in labor at our Maternal Health Advocate's house. Every time we have gone to Nyambogo we have met a woman in labor, and this village has no health facility at all. (We walked to the closest health facility, 10 km away, a few weeks ago.) So Victoria, the medical resident, and Ellen, our Advisor who is a retired nurse-midwife, went over to check the 19 year old first-time mother. She was very close to delivery, so they couldn't put her in the car and send her to a health facility.
The woman was a few weeks premature and very unprepared for delivery. She didn't even have a khanga (a ubiquitous cloth which can be used for everything from an apron to a diaper to a menstrual pad) with her, but our staff happened to be there with over 100 hygienic birth kits! Victoria, under the coaching of Ellen and with the assistance of five Traditional Birth Attendants, used the kit to deliver the baby! There was a tense moment which led to Victoria doing an episiotomy to ease the baby's entrance, and if she hadn't had a birth kit, she would not have had the tools for that, and the mother would have torn badly or the baby would have remained stuck in the birth canal.
After the tiny baby entered the world, she wasn't breathing well for the first few minutes. In a village as remote as Nyambogo, if that baby had had any problems getting her breath, there was almost nothing they could do for her and no chance, even with a car, to reach the hospital in time. Moments passed and they prayed and held their own breaths to help this little miracle breathe, and she did. She cried and took some deep breaths and started nursing to everyone's relief.
In many African cultures the baby is not named until he or she is born. Much of this comes from the traditionally high infant mortality rate, as well as a very spiritual culture in which people fear curses upon the mother and her baby. This baby, a little girl, had no name when she was born, but due to the role of this visiting Dutch almost-doctor, there's a new little baby Victoria in Nyambogo village!