Saving Mothers in Darfur
Providing mothers with access to vital healthcare facilities in Darfur
The Darfur region of Sudan has suffered from decades of civil war. Ongoing insecurity and violence today, both against the government and between rival tribes, continue to force thousands of people from their homes and disrupt the already fragile health care systems.
In 2014, conflict between two rival tribes in Sudan led the Salamats to flee to neighbouring Chad.
After staying in Chad for more than a year, when the violence began to die down, many of them have returned to Sudan, settling in three villages in southwest Um Dukhun in southern Darfur, near the border with the Central African Republic.
These villages, and many other remote areas of the country, lack transport infrastructure, making it difficult for people who require emergency treatment to be transported to health clinics and receive care.
International Medical Corps, with support from the European Union, has worked through these challenging conditions since 2004, providing essential medical care, nutrition programs, water and sanitation projects and support to the Ministry of Health through strengthening the health system and emphasising community training.
In Um Dukhun, the organisation has been distributing donkey carts to different clinics, to facilitate transportation of emergency cases. Many of these cases involve pregnant women who require immediate and essential support.
These donkey carts are simple yet vital - saving the lives of countless of mothers. Below are some of their stories.
18-year-old Mariam resides in Garaaya, one of the three villages in Um Dukhun mainly composed of Salamat tribes who had fled to Chad and recently returned to Sudan.
Mariam’s family had heard about the variety of health services provided by International Medical Corps through a community mobiliser, one of many such mobilisers who are spreading the word throughout local communities about the free health services available. During her pregnancy, Mariam had visited a local health clinic for ante-natal care and discussed plans for delivery.
“I was planning to give birth at Bagarashail health clinic, which is close by,” Mariam explains, “but there were complications when I went into labour.”
Mariam had to be moved to another International Medical Corps clinic in Um Dukhun, which could provide the comprehensive emergency care she needed. “The clinic is a 22 kilometre journey away – without the donkey carts provided by International Medical Corps, this journey would have been impossible,” Mariam says gratefully.
Donkey carts are also used regularly for residents in the villages to travel from home to the clinic, as it usually takes between 30 to 60 minutes by donkey cart. This allows people like Mariam to receive care, consultations and information. Before the clinics were established, residents of Garaaya had to travel very far to get treatment, but now many services are accessible in the clinics.
When she finally reached the health clinic, Mariam was pale, with low blood pressure and a fast heart rate. Upon examination, the doctors decided to do a C-section – allowing Mariam to become the mother to a healthy baby girl.
Mariam was also given more treatment to recover after giving birth. Mother and daughter spent another ten days in the facility to completely regain their health and strength, before being discharged together.
Fatima, a 25-year-old mother, had been in labour for two days at home when she came to an International Medical Corps’ clinic in Garaaya. Because of persistent abdominal pain, she was referred to another health facility in Um-Dukhun, 20 kilometres away.
Fatima was visibly ill upon arrival at the clinic. She was pale, with signs of a fever, a rapid heartbeat and continuing abdominal pain. The doctor decided to do a C-section because of her poor condition – allowing Fatima’s life to be saved.
“The International Medical Corps doctors helped me a lot,” Fatima says. She was kept on antibiotics for seven days, until her health became stable, and discharged on the eighth day after surgery.
“Thanks to this intervention, my life was saved.”
Unfortunately, Fatima lost her baby; complications during labour were grave. Despite this, she and her parents are grateful for the treatment that she has received.