Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
They are a group of destitute people who fled a brutal civil war. By 2006, more than 30,000 Ugandans had flocked to squalid, overcrowded internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in and around Soroti, where the clinic is located. They overwhelmed an already fragile infrastructure, and most failed to find any employment. There is widespread hunger and poverty. Displaced people from very different tribes and areas have been thrown together in very close and stressful living situations, and they are deeply traumatized. The traditional ways of living are extremely disrupted. They’ve been ordered to “return home” now, but so much has been destroyed that even if it were clear where home once was, roads are overgrown. There are no schools or health centers, and no basic services.
The history of the country since independence has been mostly north vs. south tribal conflict, with the south currently in power. The central government understates and denies the conflict, and women and children suffer. Very few aid organizations are present.
The maternal mortality rate in Uganda is 440 deaths per 100,000 births, about 16 women each day. Another 130,000 to 405,000 women suffer from disabilities caused by complications of pregnancy and childbirth each year. Women are insufficiently attended in childbirth, and they end up suffering long-term disabilities, such as fistula. The country has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world at 128 out of 1,000 children younger than five, while also having the largest proportion of people younger than 15 of any country in the world.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
I founded International Midwife Assistance after being invited to join a group of women in Boulder, Colorado who aspired to reach out to the women of Afghanistan. In 2004, I traveled around Afghanistan to bring assistance and to determine how we might best help in a sustainable way. After returning to the US, I redoubled my Farsi studies and incorporated the organization. IMA began a more than two-year-long project training rural Afghan women to be midwives. The patient-centered, compassionate model was transformative not only to the delivery of maternal/child health in Bamiyan Hospital, it was transformative in the lives of the Afghan students. All 22 students graduated, and all 22 continue to provide care to their rural villages.
Unfortunately, the situation in Afghanistan became too dangerous for us to hold another class. One of our volunteer nurses connected us to a dire situation in Soroti, Uganda, after her friend conducted a needs assessment there. It was a perfect fit. Founding the Teso Safe Motherhood Project has been a huge joy. I myself am the child of refugees. My desire is to bring aid to those feeling forgotten.
I really feel I was born a midwife. I began attending home births as an apprentice in 1982. I went on to university after the birth of my first child in 1984, but I have remained a midwife and continued to attend births in a variety of settings from 1982 up until now. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing mentors, and that, plus some natural talent, has helped me to become an accomplished midwife.