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UNFPA-supported midwives prevent maternal deaths among Cameroonian refugees in Chad

N’DJAMENA, Chad – “At the beginning of the crisis the work was very complex. People came with fear and trauma,” midwife Neïma Patricia told UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

Ms Patricia works in the Kalambari refugee camp, which houses more than 9,000 displaced people on the outskirts of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, many of them from neighboring Cameroon. Tens of thousands of people fled Cameroon in December 2021 after violence reignited in its northeastern region over the use of resources, particularly water, which has become scarce amid drought in the lake basin. Chad.

Of the nearly 36,000 Cameroonian refugees registered in Chad in January 2022, around 90 percent were women and children. The arrival of thousands of people to the Kalambari camp, where Patricia has been working since 2021, has been accompanied by an urgent need for specialized and sensitive care: “We have handled (36) cases of premature births and (23 cases of) rape.” she told UNFPA.

Amid this humanitarian crisis, UNFPA has deployed 15 midwives to two refugee camps and four refugee reception sites to provide a range of sexual and reproductive health services, including those related to family planning, pregnancy and childbirth. .

“When a crisis arises, midwives are often the first to arrive. They know that babies arrive regardless of a woman of childbearing age’s circumstances, whether she is resting at home or fleeing from conflict or disaster,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem in a statement to commemorate International Day of the Midwife.

“(They) are the unsung heroes of community health services.”

Change family plans

Climate change and the displacement it causes can be devastating for women and girls, increasing risks of gender-based violence and disrupting access to essential services, including sexual and reproductive health.

Research suggests, for example, that unintended pregnancies increase after natural disasters and are

In the Kalambari refugee camp, midwives have helped women achieve the level of fertility they desire, even as they face the challenges of displacement.

“Life is already difficult. We have to fight daily to survive,” said Gabdaibe Thibothe, 26, who visited the Kalambari maternity ward to receive family planning and contraceptives. “Thanks to the awareness of the midwives, I understood that by spacing the births of children, families can better meet the needs of children in terms of education and health.”

“I practice family planning because it not only allows us to manage resources well, but also promotes more balanced and harmonious family development,” he added.

    A one-story building is framed by palm trees.
The maternity ward of the Kalambari refugee camp, outside N’Djamena, Chad. © UNFPA Chad / Éric Djepatarlemgoto

Prevent unnecessary tragedies

Kalambari midwives have made a difference. Ms Patricia said women in the area used to give birth in quicker succession than now, and she attributes the change to the educational efforts of her fellow health workers, as well as the availability of contraceptives.

During the month of March, she and her colleagues performed 400 prenatal consultations and delivered 45 safe deliveries. “Guiding women to receive proper care and save lives is something I am proud of as a midwife,” Ms. Patricia told UNFPA.

Patricia’s co-worker, midwife Charité Nartewaye Moutedé, said there have been no maternal deaths in the camp since she started working there.

“This is a real source of satisfaction,” Nartewaye said. “I am proud of the work I do for maternal health.”