One early morning as the Imvepi Health Center opened, I saw Rose. Rose was waiting outside on a bench under the attached awning that provided shade. She was one of the first pregnant women coming to seek prenatal care that day. Many refugee women like Rose are at high risk because of what they have suffered, fleeing from war-torn areas and doing their best to carry a baby to term in their current living conditions.
Later that morning, I was able to speak to Rose through an interpreter to find out more of her story. I discovered that Rose is from the Kakwa tribe. She married her husband while they still lived in South Sudan. They footed over 60 miles to the border fleeing for their safety. They arrived in Rhino camp in April of 2017. Shortly after, she became pregnant. She is now about 7 months along.
At first when the fighting started in South Sudan, she and her family tried to stay. They would hear the fighting and run to the bush to hide, then return to their huts when they felt it was safe. Unfortunately, her husband's parents, who were at most in their 40’s, were killed. When they could no longer hide, they made the decision that the risk of leaving their home was safer than staying. They knew the journey itself is hard and increases vulnerabilities. When fleeing to the border, you are at the mercy of harsh weather, no shelter, lack of food and water, and possible sustained disease or illness during the trek, with no medical help. On top of all that, you run the risk of being attacked.
This is Rose's first child. She is excited about her pregnancy, but also nervous. Who could blame her? How many first-time mothers have been nervous, even with access to good health care, let alone coming to realize you cannot return home and will have to raise your child in a camp? She never imagined this would be the case.
She told us how hard it was to be a pregnant refugee. She said she only had one pair of shoes and one dress. She said she is always hungry despite the additional porridge supplement she and other pregnant refugee women are provided.
The good news is that Global Refuge is able to assist Rose with her antenatal care. Global Refuge focuses its antenatal care around prenatal, birth and postnatal care. Rose is getting vital education on how to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. She can come for morning health topics provided to the community. They talk about things like disease prevention.
Unfortunately, if she does not give birth during daytime hours, Global Refuge will have to refer Rose to another clinic that is already overwhelmed with other patients. Our hope is that we will be able to provide 24 hour care, just as we do at our Odubu Health Center. There are a few things needed to accomplish this, starting with a placenta pit.
“A what?” you ask. A placenta pit is a very large hole dug into the earth designed to dispose of placentas after birth. In America, we have bio-hazard waste companies to dispose of placentas safely to prevent disease. In Africa, you have a placenta pit. The pit must be dug correctly with a lid that can close the area safely. If dug incorrectly, it can collapse onto itself. Currently we must transport placentas via dirt roads miles away near another clinic.
Another step toward being able to offer 24 hour care is being able to provide on-site housing for Global Refuge staff to stay safely on the grounds at Imvepi. Currently, we have to rent a nearby structure for staff housing. This is an inconvenience for the staff, but they are willing to do what is needed to help the people.
Not only do we need our own staffing quarters, we also need to place a fence around the clinic to provide safety for the staff.
Once these things are provided, we can provide 24 hour care.
Can you a be a part of providing for these needs so mothers like Rose do not have to go to a far off clinic if their labor starts after hours?
-Becky Watson, RN