Aminata's smile: Midwife in Mauritania (Photo story)
A midwife from the Mauritanian town of Rosso, along the Senegalese border, Aminata came here to Bassikounou, about 80 km from the border with Mali, for her work.
At the Mbera Camp Health Center (in Mauritania's Malian refugee camp), Aminata is in charge of the maternal health unit. She admires her co-workers - the same ones since 2016.
In total, it's a team of five traditional birth assistants, five midwives and four hygienists, who provide rotating services to ensure that maternal health care, such as pre- and post-natal consultations, are available on an ongoing basis. This is essential to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. Between January 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019, Aminata and her team assisted 495 births and carried out 1,874 prenatal consultations.
BORN A REFUGEE
Despite the heat - it is more than 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit)! - Fatimatou is serene. She looks at her baby, a little girl, who has just been born under the benevolent gaze of her mother and Aminata's team.
This is her third child born in this camp. The head midwife, Namatou, who works with ALIMA, was fortunately able to care for Fatimatou during her three pregnancies and the medical team offered free quality follow-up consultations, despite the difficult living conditions.
Aminata is proud of what ALIMA is doing here, assisting refugees who are in need of health care.
"Without this help, it would be very complicated. It's a remote place, so it's a good way of not leaving people with nothing, without medical help. Working in maternal health requires a very fast pace. You have to be able to be there all the time and react quickly, otherwise you'd lose a lot of mothers and babies."
Since January 2019, ALIMA has taken over the medical activities in the camp, which were previously managed by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The security situation in this area is still very volatile, as it depends not only on the incidents near the borders, but also difficult farming conditions given the climatic changes and a high rate of malnutrition.
While the Mughaata (department) of Bassikounou has nearly 51,000 inhabitants, Malian refugees in the Mbera camp are estimated to number nearly 57,000 (UNHCR, May 2019).
By supporting several posts and health centers in the surrounding area, ALIMA makes it possible to guarantee free, high-quality medical coverage for all Malian refugees and a large part of the Mauritanian host population, which is itself in need.
A WELL-EQUIPPED TEAM
With her portable ultrasound scanner, she can visually monitor a pregnancy to know the child's age and sex, check the baby's correct position and ensure that the placenta is well located, for example. It also allows her to control the amount of amniotic fluid, detect any obvious malformations and listen to the sound of the fetal heartbeat.
Aminata also uses this device during her post-natal consultations since it is still considered to be gynecological consultations up to 42 days after delivery. She makes sure that the new mother does not have cysts or fibroma, and can look at the condition of her kidneys, her liver and other organs.
What she loves most about her work is helping to give life:
"Nine months of pregnancy is a long time. The day of delivery must be a success, so I have to do my best to make everything go well. It is in these moments that I know how much I'm needed."
This is Aminata's smile.
What she likes best is hearing the child's first cry. She says it really fills her with joy.
"It is a relief to know that the child is fine and that the mother did not suffer in vain during childbirth. There is this humanity - what makes a person a person, an emotion."
"We don't collect things, but moments, moments of life."
See more photos and read the full story here: Aminata's Smile :)
Between January and May 2019, ALIMA cared for 28,378 patients in the region. Among them, 7,535 were under the age of five.
*Photo credit: Youness Mohamed / ALIMA