Caring for mothers in conflict-affected Darfur
When Halima discovered she was pregnant with her first child, she was ecstatic.
But the ongoing conflict in her home country meant that the family was struggling to meet even the most basic needs – putting her unborn child at risk.
“Because of the violence we had almost no access to basic health services,” Halima explains, “or even clean water or food.”
Halima and her family live in the locality of Um Dukhun in southern Central Sudan, bordering Chad and CAR. Like most people in their village, they have been caught up in the ongoing conflict and civil war within Darfur, which since 2003 has uprooted more than 2 million people from their homes.
Together with Sudan’s Ministry of Health and funding from the European Union, International Medical Corps has been working in the area since 2004, providing primary healthcare, nutritional support and water and sanitation projects to affected communities - with the purpose of delivering emergency care while also establishing a foundation for long-term recovery.
Shortly after Halima became pregnant, she was visited by community mobilisers working with International Medical Corps, who encouraged her to attend a local health clinic, to receive antenatal care and ensure a safe pregnancy. Halima, wanting to do the best for her child, readily agreed.
During her appointments, the community mobilisers also discussed where Halima wanted to give birth. “They explained the benefits of delivering in a health facility,” Halima recalls. “After my family and I spoke to them, we agreed for me to give birth in the health care centre.”
The mobilisers, who are from the local communities, are part of a new non-cash incentive approach meant to increase the number of deliveries in health facilities and ensure the health of mothers and their new babies in Sudan. Halima is one of over 9,000 women who have been referred to the health facilities through this initiative.
”Attending the clinics for antenatal care allowed me to receive information on how we could best plan for delivery, as well as about how to take care of the baby after birth,” Halima says.
A few weeks later, Halima went into labour. She was immediately transported to the health facility, where, with the support of a midwife and other staff, Halima safely delivered her baby boy - born small at only 2.1 kilograms, but healthy and crying loudly.
Immediately after birth, the midwife dried the baby and placed him on Halima’s abdomen, covered with a dry cloth. After some minutes, when the baby showed signs of hunger, the midwife also helped the new mother breastfeed her child.
“I was very happy with the care I received,” Halima says. “Later the team visited me at home to check my baby for signs of illness. Since he was small, they encouraged me to practice exclusive breastfeeding. They also showed me how to keep him warm.