Monday 22nd May 2017
A Visit to Chichu Health Centre
Our morning began with a visit to Chichu, a centre which Midwives@Ethiopia has worked closely with over the years. On this occasion we weren't stopping there to deliver any training, but just checking-in with Ethiopian partners and delivering some equipment. We were kindly shown around the centre, and this gave me my first glimpse of maternity care in rural Southern Ethiopia. I will let the photos of the maternity department do the talking:
There was a lot I had to learn about maternity care in Ethiopia.
Boxes of medications & equipment were unloaded into the store room at Chichu whilst the reality of the facilities sunk in.
Once done, we were back on the road again, this time to visit the local hospital in the town of Dilla.
Again, our visit to this hospital was fleeting - a chance for the team to catch-up with links at the hospital, and sort some paperwork. We were kindly shown around the Maternity and Neonatal Units of the hospital, and once again, I will allow the photos to give a first impression:
Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit Dilla Hospital Maternity Unit
Now scroll back up.
Look once again at the images.
I'm sure that many of you reading this are, like me, mums yourselves. For those of you who had hospital births, do you remember how you felt walking into the Labour and Delivery Unit, knowing that your baby was on the way but not really knowing what the next few hours would bring? How did your surroundings affect your emotions? Everyone's experience is unique, but for everybody, the environment makes a difference - be that positive or not. For me, first time round, when everything was new and daunting, it helped to be shown into a room that was private, clean and welcoming. (It also helped that the lovely Emma was working that shift, but more about how important a friendly face can be in subsequent blog posts, as I talk about the ''Standards in Maternity Care' that M@E worked to create.) Now imagine walking into a hospital to welcome your baby into the world, feeling vulnerable and in pain, and being shown to one of the beds above. Really imagine it. It's a hot day. No air conditioning. No fresh breeze. Running water is a luxury and disinfectant costs. The warm, stagnant air brings in the flies. A lack of facilities means that it is hard for privacy to be maintained, even with the hard work of the staff.
How are you feeling now?
It's well documented that stress and worry can have a negative impact on the way that labour progresses, not to mention the fact that every woman deserves to have as positive an experience as possible. M@E focuses on delivering training - as a small charity with limited funds, donating all new equipment would not only be impossible but unsustainable. M@E go deeper, and work in partnership with the fantastic teams at local centres to improve the standards of care. They make changes that last, and can be taken from area to area.
Neonatal Care and Antenatal Care
Before leaving Dilla, we had the privilege of being shown around both their Neonatal Unit and their Antenatal Care Home. The first thing that struck me about the Neonatal Unit was the emphasis on Kangaroo Care. Buzzwords in our UK units, Kangaroo Care is, simply, lots of skin-to-skin contact between mum and baby. The most natural thing in the world! In a place where incubators and other technology rarely feature, these cuddles have benefits beyond the obvious 'it's good for bonding': skin-to-skin helps to regulate a tiny newborn's temperature and heart-rate, it aids mum's milk supply, and reduces stress in both mum and baby. For this mum below, those benefits were doubled, as hiding underneath her right arm is a second baby!
Outside the hospital we were shown to a beautifully painted hut, known as a Maternity Waiting Home - this building was a safe place for mums to stay in the run-up to birth. Mums were invited to stay for a variety of reasons - perhaps complications in pregnancy, or living a long distance from the hospital. Mums stayed together in this accommodation, and toddlers were allowed to stay with their mums as well, making the home seem very much like its own tiny community.
The beauty of flash photography has allowed me to take the second picture above. What is hard to portray here is that the inside of the hut was near pitch-black, the only light filtering in from the doors which can be seen in the photograph. Inside the building was a traditional stove, the warm smokey air engulfing the space inside. The area was kitted out with several thin mattresses on the floor, covered by light sheets. A far cry from our antenatal care, yet welcoming and homely in its own way.
I was about to witness the most fantastic few days of discussions, debates and brainstorming, resulting in a solid set of standards that would improve the care for so many women, and make the best use of the facilities and equipment available.
This work would all happen in a place called Udo - a remote health centre at the top of a steep 4km track. A place that now holds a special spot in my heart.