Thaba-Phatšoa Health Centre’s miracle baby


Delivered by the roadside, as mother fails complete 4-hour trip to clinic


Village health worker ’Malimakatso Moqheka accompanies a pregnant fellow villager on foot to a nearby rural health centre, in what can only be described as extremely adverse conditions, on a dusty Thaba-Phatšoa road in Leribe when they both realise they will not make it on time. The clinic is some five hours away on foot. In this remote rural village and the neighbouring, Ha Lejone, midwives are often forced to go the extra mile in their duties – leaving their designated health centre to travel to remote areas to assist patients during times of emergency labour.

Along the way to the clinic on the dilapidated pothole-riddled road the expectant mother begins to feel her labour pains which are so intense that they had to stop by the roadside.

They relay an SOS message to the health centre for a nurse to meet them half-way.

A female midwife at the entre jumps into her car in response to the call made from the bushy remote area by the pregnant woman and her helper, four hours into the journey to the clinic.

The sorry state of the road does not help the responding nurse who also has to leave her vehicle somewhere along the road to walk on foot to the point where the distressed ’Malimakatso and her patient sit waiting for help.  She eventually arrives and is able to help deliver the baby successfully at 10 o’clock in the morning by side of the road, in a make-shift screen she erected upon arrival.

Thaba-Phatšoa Health Centre village health workers’ coordinator who witnessed the scene, Hatoe Ramapepe, says the clinic received a distress call from one of their village health workers from Ha Mapoli saying a patient was now unable to walk further to reach the facility due to severe cramps.

As the coordinator he rushed to inform the nurse in-charge about the incident.

This is the time that the dedicated nurse took her vehicle and rushed to where the patient was. The expectant mother had walked four hours from the village of Ha Mapoli.

Thaba-Phatšoa Health Centre serves 30 villages but only has three midwives and two assistant nurses.

One of the new nursing mothers to a seven-day-old baby boy at the centre, ’Mampho Raleting from Ha Tobolela, Thaba-Phatšoa, says she is extremely satisfied with the services she received from the midwives at the clinic.

“I got the best treatment in my time of pregnancy up to the time I gave birth; they had so much patience when helping me in the labour room,” she recounts with a smile.

In in a similar case at the Ha Lejone Health Centre, which serves 35 villages that include Vuka-Mosotho was an expectant mother ready to deliver after walking for five hours to the clinic. She was marooned on the other side of the river not very far from the clinic and unable to cross to the other side to get to the centre. She was helped by the nurse in-charge at the time, who crossed to where the expectant mother was stranded, helped calm her down until they got to the clinic where she was able to safely deliver the baby.

One of he midwives at Ha Lejone, Palesa Lekhebotsane, says when they have packs (equipment and supplies) used in the labour room their work runs smoothly, the only challenge comes when they have a shortage – and also when an expectant mother does not follow the guiding principles given to them.

She adds: “As midwives our aim is to come out of that labour room with both the mother and child alive; we need to be as patient as we can with expectant mothers, when doing our work with love and energy we can always have successful deliveries.”

These stories come to the fore on International Midwifery Day which is commemorated globally on May 5 each year.

The day honours midwives for their contribution towards the health of their respective nations and to increase awareness about the midwives’ contribution towards their patients all over the world.

Nelly Fobo from the Independent Midwives Association Lesotho, notes that as they celebrate this year, they will be advocating for good hygiene, especially washing of hands when a midwife attends to the client.

“We are trying by all means to curb the spread infection from the nurse in charge to a new-born baby and the mother, by making sure there is good hygiene in the labour room. This year we are also planning with the Ministry of Health that they can assist with contributions so that we can make a big celebration with midwives from all the 10 districts,” she says.

She, however, points out that the major challenge they encounter as midwives is lack of equipment because without the right tools they cannot do their work as well as one would expect.

Secondly, some of the health facilities lack running water, which is one of the major things a midwife needs when delivering babies.

To mark International Midwifery Day this year, journalists from major newspapers and radio stations around the country were supported by United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) to conduct interviews in hard-to-reach clinics so as to write informed stories that highlight the role of midwives in saving lives of mothers and babies in the Northern districts of Leribe and Berea.

This follows the Maternal Death Review Report of 2015, which has shown alarming figures of maternal deaths from Leribe and Berea, at 25 and 19 lives lost, respectively.

However, the highest number of maternal deaths occurred at Maseru’s Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where 102 women lost their lives as a result of complications of delivery or inadequate care during pregnancy.

The UNFPA’s theme for International Midwifery Day is “Actioning Evidence: Leading the Way to Enhance Quality Midwifery Care Globally.”

For the UNFPA, midwives and people with midwifery skills are the main caregivers for women and their new-borns during pregnancy, labour, childbirth and in the post-delivery period. Therefore, the organisation stands in solidarity with midwives worldwide and thanks them for the life-saving work they do.

Furthermore, midwives are at the heart of UNFPA’s three transformative results: ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning and ending gender-based violence and harmful practices.

The Fund, therefore, views investing in midwives as leading to a world where every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe. Commemorating this day, UNFPA celebrates and champions midwives for their work that saves and transforms lives.

In over 125 countries, UNFPA advances midwifery by strengthening quality education, regulations and workforce policies, and building strong national associations of midwives.

In Lesotho, UNFPA supports the government through the Ministry of Health in advancing the midwifery curriculum and strengthening midwifery services as a strategy of reducing maternal deaths.

UNFPA also supports training of midwives, emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

Lesotho is on Stage 4 (Very High Maternal Mortality Ratio) at 618/100 000 live births (Census 2016) based on the classification by East and Southern Africa (ESA) countries stages of obstetric transition.

To this end, UNFPA views access to midwives as the single most important factor in stopping the preventable maternal and new born deaths.

Lesotho has a high maternal mortality ratio of 618 deaths per 100 000 live births (Census 2016). Most of the maternal deaths are caused by, among others, long distances that women have to travel to access sexual and reproductive health services, haemorrhage (uncontrolled bleeding), infection (including HIV), hypertensive disorders (high blood pressure) and other causes. Midwives are central to efforts that could lead to averting maternal deaths.

This is why every year on the May 5, midwives around the world are honoured for their key contribution towards the health of their nations.

The global theme this year is “Together again: from evidence to reality” and honours the efforts of midwives and their associations to action critical evidence like the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) 2021 towards meaningful change for their profession and the women and families they care for.

In order to take action to improve the health of the population, International Midwifery Day is celebrated every year to raise awareness of the role of midwives and to meet the growing needs of more midwives around the world.

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