Mary's Story

"Being a midwife is all Iíve ever wanted to do...I want to give mothers and their babies a better chance"

In rural communities in Africa, some health facilities are so under-resourced that helping mothers give birth by the light of kerosene lamps, candles Ė and even the light from a mobile phone Ė is not completely unusual for a midwife. Take it from Mary Leonard Raphael, a midwife in Tanzania, which has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality (398 women die for every 100,000 live births):

ďOnce, I was helping a mother deliver her baby in the middle of the night when the power went off. She was already in labor, so I had to keep going using only the light from my mobile. The lights might go out, but weíve still got mobile phones. I had to keep pressing buttons on my phone just to illuminate the room. To complicate things further, the colleague who was helping me had to rush off and help another woman in labor. The baby became very tired and I had to resuscitate him when he arrived. Thankfully, both he and mother came through.Ē

Unfortunately, most women in Tanzania do not get to deliver their babies with a midwife like Mary, placing themselves and their children at a higher risk of complications, including death.

This is why Amref Health Africa works to train more midwives and other health workers to prevent these needless deaths; midwives like Mary, who has always wanted to dedicate her life to saving mothers and their babies: ďBeing a midwife is all Iíve ever wanted to do. As a girl, I loved children and was fascinated by pregnancy. The first time I helped deliver a baby was frightening, though Ė all I knew of birth was what Iíd heard from the labor wards and I got quite a shock. Luckily, the birth wasnít complicated Ė which made it less traumatic for the mother, and for me too. That was 12 years ago. Since then, Iíve helped deliver hundreds of babies.Ē

Mary and her fellow midwives do so much more than delivering babies. They also go out into their community in Tanzania where they provide follow-up care to mothers and their babies long after childbirth. They also provide women with family planning information and other important health education.

All of this keeps Mary very busy: ďI wake up at about 5am and make breakfast for my family. I have a daughter of my own and also care for my brotherís daughter. We all live at my motherís house and sheís a big help. Both girls think Iím too busy at work, but they understand Iím doing a good job.

Usually, Iíll get to work about 7:30am, when Iíll look at the night nursesí report. Iíll also get the instruments and medication ready for the day ahead, and have everything on standby for any deliveries. Iíll then start on my ward round, checking up on post-natal cases. Iím involved in deliveries from start to finish and the length of my working day varies depending on the number of cases weíve got.Ē

In Tanzania, Amref Health Africa delivers an e-Learning training program for midwives to further their skills. The e-Learning programs allows midwives to continue learning without taking them away from their families or patients.

Mary is one of Amref Health Africaís e-Learning students: ďEducation like this will help us swell the ranks of skilled midwives, allowing us to care for more women and children. The training Iím doing means Iíll be able to manage more cases on my own. It gives me more confidence in diagnosing problems and offering advice to colleagues Ė even the doctors. Iíve started giving talks to patients too. They ask me why Iím doing this and I tell them I want to share what Iíve learned.

Hopefully, the more skills I can get, the more women I can reach Ė and the more lives I can help save.Ē

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