“Good news travels fast”: Maternity care in Nigeria

05 June 2018

Martins works for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Jahun, a town in Nigeria's Jigawa state, supporting maternal healthcare projects. In this blog, he shares his story about a new emergency centre and the impact it will have on mothers and newborns in the community.

“Wannan mutanan MSF da suka zomana, alheri ne su.”

This is a popular saying by the locals and residents of Jahun, Nigeria, whenever the discussion turns to what MSF are doing here.

The Hausa language statement simply translates to “These MSF people who have come to us are a blessing”.

You would be surprised how much a random person, who has not been to the Jahun General Hospital in a long time, knows about the MSF project that runs here.

But then, that is it - good news travels very fast here. Hausa communities are highly communal in nature and word-of-mouth is very effective a lot of the time.

Opening ceremony

It was not, therefore, very strange when a number of locals, dignitaries and representatives – some of who had never received a formal invitation – showed up to the official opening of the new BEMONC (Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care) facility yesterday.

They know there are people who may never visit Jahun, but are interested in how life turns out for them."

The formerly dilapidated building now has a new look after MSF partnered with the Ministry of Health to renovate and equip it. It will serve as yet another outreach centre for mothers-to-be and newborns in the rural community.

Patients at an MSF maternal health project in Jahun. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

Patients at an MSF maternal health project in Jahun. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

The official opening may have lasted only a few hours, but what this new centre means for the community and its people remains a cause of excitement.

And so, again and again, as the locals discuss the recent development, you would hear someone say it:

“Wannan mutanan MSF da suka zomana, alheri ne su.”

Each day that the MSF operation runs in Jahun represents renewed hope for the women and the families of women whose maternal health needs it was set up to meet.

Though this project originally began in 2008 to provide care to women suffering from fistula, it became obvious that further cases could be prevented if more women had access to quality medical assistance during childbirth. Hence, the partnership with the Ministry of Health began, providing comprehensive maternity care in the Jahun area.

Reaching remote communities

Before, patients with complications were brought to MSF at the Jahun General Hospital only after local/traditional midwives or family members have failed to treat them at home. This included life-threatening conditions such as prolonged labour, retained placenta, uterine rupture, abruptio, eclampsia, hemorrhagic shock and intense bleeding.

Nurses care for a newborn at Jahun General Hospital. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

Nurses care for a newborn at Jahun General Hospital. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

By the time they eventually arrived, after hours of waiting for transportation and driving through often bad rural routes that connect the villages to Jahun, the cases would have become more critical and sometimes harder to treat.

MSF is gradually working to achieve a world where no woman bleeds to death in a poorly lit room, under the care of an untrained practitioner."

The lower-level health centres closer to the homes of these patients often used to lack the facilities to respond to serious complications, so empowering these local centres became necessary for MSF.

Centres such as this new one, which will now be the reason that most local women will never have to travel long distances to access comprehensive care during childbirth.

“Nagode sosai”

The new facility is not just an addition to the number of outreach centres. It means more than that.

By making this significant investment in the healthcare of women in the area, MSF is gradually working to achieve a world where no woman bleeds to death in a poorly lit room, under the care of an untrained practitioner – because there is no adequately equipped health centre nearby, or because they have no money to pay the medical bills.

MSF visits a rural community near Jahun. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

MSF visits a rural community in Jigawa State. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF

The truth is, when the people here say, “Wannan mutanan MSF da suka zomana, alheri ne su”, they understand that there are other people around the world who are giving so much to make this possible.

They know it goes beyond MSF’s white and black international staff or the Nigerian team that work here. They know there are people who may never visit Jahun, but are interested in how life turns out for them and make benevolent gestures and contributions to see this happen.

To these people, they would say “Nagode sosai”, which translates into “Thank you very much”.

 

 

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