– When Abdirhaman Mohamud Farah’s wife went in to labour and developed complications, he knew there was no-one in the village who could help her.
As quickly as he could, he arranged to take her to a hospital in Buhodle, on the Somali-Ethiopian border, 75 km away from their village. Mother and baby came through the ordeal.
But Abdirahman was left with medical bills of $500. He managed to sell 20 goats and settled the debts.
That was two years ago. Last month, however, when his wife went into labour with their next child, the circumstances were dramatically different.
A team of female health workers from the new Widhwidh mother and child health centre was despatched to their home in the rural area to provide emergency assistance. The team helped Abdirahman’s wife to deliver her baby safely.
Abdirahman, 29, was thankful there was no charge for the services. He explained that times have been very hard for livestock herders like him and the drought has eroded the value of his animals.
“She was bleeding excessively when the medical team came. They treated her and she stopped bleeding. I am very grateful for the work they did. If they hadn’t come, I wouldn’t have been able to take her anywhere for help because I didn’t have any healthy animals to sell. Most of my animals became very weak and thin due to the drought,” he said.
The Widwidh health teams serve 13 villages around Widhwidh, helping mainly rural women. They provide free healthcare services to pregnant women, deliver their babies, and provide postnatal care for mothers and new-borns.
The centre, the first in the area, was established three months ago by Amina Abdirahman Mohamed, who studied midwifery at the University of Hargeisa. She returned to Widhwidh a year ago determined to tackle the health challenges facing rural women and children.
Amina told Radio Ergo that maternal deaths in these areas used to be common. She said two women died after prolonged labour in May, just before the centre opened, because they could not get the medical care they needed in the village.
After a lengthy awareness campaign, women in rural and urban areas are now contacting the centre to access the services they need. Some of them come in to the centre at Widhwidh, while others receive home visits by the centre’s mobile health workers.
“There is a big difference now,” Amina said. “Even women in the rural areas contact us whenever they need medical help. So now the risks of maternal deaths occurring in this area are much less.”
Asha Ahmed, 37, delivered her sixth child a week ago at the centre. She told Radio Ergo she had given birth to her first five children at home in Widhwidh without any trained health worker to assist her.
“Only my female neighbours used to come to help me. The risk was very high and most of the time I lost a lot of blood,” she said. She was happy to find that she and other women could now deliver safely at the health centre.
Amina runs the centre with two midwives and nine female nurses, whom she trained herself. The centre has an ambulance donated by Somali Aid Society (SAS) used for home visits to women in the villages and to transport patients. The centre receives support from UNICEF through SAS.