Fieldset
Welcome to Walikale: Settling into life as an MSF midwife

Two weeks into her first ever MSF assignment, US midwife Claire shares her early impressions from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Walikale sunset

After two weeks, I'm just starting to get into the swing of things at my Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’ve never written a blog before, so I’m going to start out by just giving a snapshot of my life here. In future posts, I hope to delve deeper into specific aspects of my work and life as an MSF midwife.

Welcome to Walikale

There is only one flight between the regional capital of Goma and my project each week, and that maintains a safe and comfortable sense of isolation here.

With the weekly plane comes a consistent rotation of international staff. Last week, we had eight people staying here at the compound, but this week we have twelve. We share a kitchen, bathrooms, and living space in addition to working together.   

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An MSF aircraft arrives with medical supplies for Walikale Hospital and the nearby health centres
An MSF aircraft arrives with medical supplies for Walikale Hospital and the nearby health centres

As the midwife activity manager in my project, I am responsible for the sexual and reproductive healthcare supported by MSF at the local hospital and five health clinics.

The hospital and four of the health clinics are a part of the national healthcare system while the fifth health clinic is an MSF clinic.

The morning rounds

There is no typical day here in Walikale!

Most of the time, I wake up under my mosquito net, eat breakfast, and then walk to the hospital which is about 10 minutes away.

My Congolese colleagues are smart, capable, and welcoming.

I do a round on the maternity, gynaecology, and neonatology units and check in with the doctors, midwives and nurses working there. I listen to any interesting cases they have at the hospital and evaluate patients as needed.

My Congolese colleagues are smart, capable, and welcoming. While all the doctors have been trained in basic obstetrics, including cesarean sections, none of them are specialists in obstetrics. They will often ask me for a second opinion before they move to a cesarean section.

C-sections are much rarer than they are at home. This is for the simple reason that we want to minimize the chance of uterine rupture – which becomes an increased risk for mothers who have had c-sections – in an area where women may not be able to quickly travel to the hospital during future pregnancies.  

Confidential care

The MSF clinic here is called Tumaini. And, since it is right next to the hospital, I usually stop there after hospital rounds.

Tumaini is known for the confidentiality of the care it provides. That care includes family planning, care after sexual violence, and mental health care.

One of my biggest goals this year is to develop the sexual and gender-based violence program in our project.

About once a week, I leave Walikale on a “movement” to check in with the health centres that my project supports outside of town. Each health centre includes a birth centre, family planning services, as well as prenatal and postpartum care.

So far, I've just observed how things at the clinics are run, but in the future, I'll be able to offer some training to the staff there.

MSF life

At the end of the day, I get to relax, eat the delicious meal that our cook has made, and enjoy the company of the other international staff here.

Living in a community with an international group of humanitarians has been an incredible joy so far.

Our compound has a revolving door of people from all over the world coming and going, and I am very consistently impressed with how well we all communicate and live with one another.

I'm looking forward to delving deeper into this MSF life over the next nine months.