“They have kept my family together by saving my life”
Saving a Mother
Awa Djouma did not lose hope when she lost her fifth child during labour and learned she could no longer have children.
The 30-year old mother of four lives with her husband and children in the village of Chichi on a farm eight kilometres from Birao in northern Central African Republic. Between the rainy seasons, they live in the countryside in central Birao, where Awa works as a farmer.
When Awa went into labour with her fifth child she was at home, tended by traditional midwives.
“After I had lost a significant amount of blood, my parents decided to take me to the hospital in Birao,” Awa explains. “There was no help available in my home village.”
The Central African Republic has been in civil war for over a decade, plagued by almost constant unrest and violence. The country is one of the poorest in the world, and numerous armed groups throughout have led to internal displacement and refugee movements. Since December 2012, more than 350,000 people have been internally displaced and more than 450,000 Central Africans have fled to neighbouring countries.
This complex humanitarian emergency has resulted in poor access to quality healthcare—putting the lives of expectant mothers like Awa at risk.
To respond to the country’s needs, International Medical Corps works with support from the European Union to provide primary healthcare, as well as clean water and sanitation projects, health education, gender-based violence prevention and maternal and child health care services—crucial in a country where the maternal mortality rate is 890 per 100,000 live births.
The hospital in Birao is one of several health facilities supported by International Medical Corps in the region. When Awa arrived at the hospital early in the morning, childbirth attendants immediately called Dr Valentin to examine her.
“The doctor explained to me that my husband and I had to sign a document of consent,” Awa recalls. “I don’t remember the rest, but my uncle and my husband who were waiting outside the operating room told me that the operation took more than six hours.”
During these hours, Dr Valentin came out and told Awa’s husband that they would have to remove her uterus to save her life – making it impossible for her to have more children.
The next morning, when Awa regained consciousness, Dr Valentin went to check up on her. “He told me that the operation was successful and returned a day later with the International Medical Corps medical team who helped me to sit upright and walk,” Awa says, recounting her fast recovery. ”By the third day, I could stand and walk on my own. I am proud to have regained my health.”
When the doctor explained that Awa could no longer have children, she maintained an attitude of optimism, which continues today. “I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me. God alone is responsible for that,” she says. “What is important is that I am still alive because of the work of the International Medical Corps medical team. They gave me the health I need to continue to raise my other children who would have been left without a mother.”
Awa now wants to promote the work of the organisation in her community, encouraging other mothers to deliver safely in health facilities, rather than at home. “I strongly urge anyone who feels seriously ill to go to the hospital so they can receive the treatment they need.
“Birao is an isolated place; there isn’t anybody qualified to address our problems. International Medical Corps provided me with a life-saving operation for free.