Maternity services here were until recently housed in a tent, not a Glastonbury pop up tent… but close. It had everything needed to provide safe and effective care, but the floor was uneven, it was terribly humid at times and it never felt like home. When I arrived the permanent building was under construction and was the wish of the midwife who had been in the project over a year before. I was lucky enough to be the one to advise on finishing touches and prepare for a grand opening celebration.
The old maternity tent © Laura Bridle
The new building has three beds in the labour room, which is also home to an air conditioner, shower room and heating pad for those babies born prematurely or born at home and brought in due to hypothermia. Although security remains stable in Maban, it is not advisable to move during the night, so many women do give birth at home. The same building also has a private room for consultations surrounding family planning, sexually transmitted infection diagnosis and treatment, and sexual gender based violence. It has a close observation area and also a six-bedded bay for those in labour or needing closer observation. Adjacent to this we have a gynaecological/postnatal permanent building with eight beds in each bay.
We had the OK for the official move from our dedicated and no-job-too-small logistician Moses and we sent out invites for the past and present traditional birth attendants, hospital staff and all those living in our compound to come and celebrate with us. The day was started with music being DJ’d by our pharmacist, drinks and snacks served by our MD and medical team leader, and superb dancing by the rest of staff.
Dancing to celebrate the new maternity unit © Laura Bridle
The women of Maban must have sensed the need for a celebration, as three babies were also born for the last time in the maternity tent. We had the midwives cut the ribbon and with that the women sang and the local band began to play. We hear this band play throughout the night most evenings due to weddings and parties in the camp so it was nice to be enjoying them for ourselves. The party continued for a few more hours and I returned to moving the remaining items into the new maternity with the help of my colleagues.
Our ex-pat nurse donated a blanket and hat which we decided to give to the first baby born in the new maternity. Hawa had arrived at Gentil soon after the music had stopped; she was in labour with her forth pregnancy. Her labour progressed well and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, caught by regional midwife Rebecca. We all congratulated her with traditional high pitched cheering and presented her with the presents. It was a day full of laughter and community spirit and one I will cherish for a long time.
New baby, new blanket © Laura Bridle