IRC Somalia Opens Gabiley Maternity Ward
|Ayanle 'Luck' Jama and his mother, Asha.|
On December 13, 2001, Ayanle (meaning "Luck") was born, a healthy baby boy weighing 3.5 kilograms. His mother, Asha Jama, is 35 years old. She experienced complications during labor and, being too poor to afford a taxi, several of her neighbors used a wheelbarrow to bring her to the new maternity ward in town. Six months earlier, serious complications would have required traveling over 60 kilometers to Hargeisa’s hospital, but now maternity care is available to the Gabiley community through an IRC-implemented maternity ward funded by Ireland Aid.
Lasting nine months, IRC Somaliland’s maternity ward project intended to provide the facilities, supplies, and knowledge to help reduce the high maternal and infant mortality so prevalent in Somaliland. WHO and UNICEF estimated in 1997 that Somali women have a 1 in 7 lifetime risk of maternal death and there exists an under-age-5 death rate of 211 out of 1,000 live births in Somalia. Subsequent studies have shown those numbers remain relatively unchanged.
The Wadajir Umbrella group in Gabiley witnessed the need for improved maternal health care in its region and came to IRC with a proposal for building and equipping a maternity ward in that town. The women’s umbrella group had been formed with IRC’s help during an earlier income generation project there, so IRC was familiar with the group. IRC found funding for the maternity ward from Ireland Aid, and began implementing the project with the aid of the community in April 2001.
In addition to the construction of and supplies for the ward, the project aimed to improve the training of the traditional birth attendants (TBAs), who are the primary professionals aiding women in childbirth. By improving their training and ability to detect complications requiring further care, the project hopes to increase referrals to the healthcare facilities in Gabiley, reducing the maternal mortality rate. The maternity ward will also provide prenatal care for pregnant women.
The structure of the new ward was completed in October, 2001 and stocked with equipment and an initial supply of drugs. Training in cost-sharing and a division of responsibilities for the ward’s upkeep ensures the ward’s sustainability. IRC will also assist the women’s umbrella group, still the primary force behind the ward, in applying for further funding from other international organizations.
The maternity ward was officially opened during a ceremony on November 15, attended by the entire Wadajir umbrella group, local dignitaries, healthcare officials, and members of the community. Faduma Dahir Dualeh, the IRC Counterpart Project Manager, commended the work of all those involved in the project, also saying, "With proper community involvement, this maternity ward will be sustainable for the future." The broad community support for the project and the community’s initiative in proposing the new maternity ward will help ensure that the ward operates well into the future, and continues to deliver quality healthcare to the women of Gabiley.