It’s not easy being a woman in Somalia. Life is shaped by overwhelming challenges beyond her control: severe drought, depleted crops, protracted conflict, toxic gender norms, inadequate education for girls and much more. Risking her life in childbirth should not be one more worry on that list—which is why we’re working to expand lifesaving maternal healthcare across the country.
Somalia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Many women have to travel long distances to receive adequate healthcare, and risk dying from complications of childbirth at home or in understaffed clinics. In Middle Shebelle region, for example, the availability of a maternity unit in a healthcare center often means the difference between life and death for mothers. To combat this, International Medical Corps provides free maternal and newborn services for mothers across the region, operating a 24-hour standalone maternity unit with 36 beds. Trained healthcare workers in the fully equipped surgical theater can also provide cesarean sections and safe blood transfusions for complicated deliveries.
Last year, in response to high rates of excessive bleeding after delivery—a major cause of death among mothers in Somalia—we began piloting a community-based project to distribute misoprostol tablets (which help prevent post-partum hemorrhage), and trained midwives and community health workers on how to counsel mothers and properly prescribe the drug. Today, as part of routine prenatal care in our clinics in Jowhar town, we provide expectant mothers in their third trimester with three misoprostol tablets and detailed information on how and when to take them, as well as instructions on what to do if they experience adverse side effects.
Luul Ali Hassan, aged 35, lives in Guumes, a village nearly 10 miles away from Jowhar town and the nearest health center. “After my most recent delivery, I took the tablets International Medical Corps gave me and, compared to previous deliveries, I did not bleed as severely,” says Luul. “This drug made a difference in my delivery experience and I feel this initiative will save many other mothers in my village.”