This week I went to Aberdeen (another part of Freetown) to visit my friend Kate, who I met on the Africa Mercy in Benin, 2009. Kate works as a midwife at the Aberdeen Women’s Centre. The centre offers, Obstetric Fistula repairs, a children’s clinic and maternity care; helping 100 mothers each month give birth. As you can imagine, a lot goes on behind these walls!
Originally Mercy Ships helped to set up this Fistula repair clinic a few years ago, but after a couple of years they decided to just focus on their ship, the Africa Mercy and let someone else take care of the land-based organisations. Ann Gloag, who is a major sponsor for Mercy Ships, now supports this clinic from her foundation and all services are free of charge. My friend Kate took me on a tour and explained how each of the areas run. She is especially passionate about the maternity clinic as she was a key leader in setting it up in April 2010. This was a vital clinic to set up and train midwifes as Sierra Leone’s maternal death rate is one in eight! Can you imagine? The reality is for these women that if you fall pregnant, you have a one in eight chance of dying while giving birth!
A few of the staff from the Aberdeen Women’s Centre go frequently to different nearby areas of Sierra Leone and select high risk pregnant mothers to come to the clinic for a history and assessment. 15 mothers come on both Wednesdays and Fridays clinic days, giving them a total of around 100 births per month. After the mother’s history is taken and the unborn baby assessed, the mother is sent home until she goes into labour. Then, she will return to the clinic, give birth, hopefully without complications and return home again with her new baby. If any complications do arise, the midwives are there and ready to intervene. Over the past 18 months the wonderful midwives have delivered about 100 babies a month and have had, by the grace of God, only two maternal deaths. This clinic is already changing the statistics of this country!
The fistula clinic is for women that have had internal trauma causing a hole between their bladder and vagina, vagina and rectum or bladder, vagina and rectum. These women leak urine or faeces or both without any control, making them social outcasts. Most of these fistulas have happened through obstructed labours but some happen from rape. This part of the clinic has 44 beds.
The local phone company Airtel has also signed up to help these women by running a free hotline they can call for help. The ad is broadcast on the local radio station and has helped spread the message far and wide that women can have free help.
The children’s clinic is also open most days of the week, for general consultations and immunisations.
This hive of activity is mostly run by Sierra Leoneans, with the guidance of a few women from other countries all over the world. After much training over the last few years, the plan is to hand over the whole establishment to the Sierra Leoneans by mid 2012. I was so impressed with the set up and work that these precious midwives, nurses and others do for the women of Sierra Leone. They do truly inspirational work!