Bahai beach

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bahai Beach 56

Bahai Beach 56

Uum Zahra

March 29, 2007

Her radiant smile and warm handshake brightens up my every day come to the camp. Our standard first line is: ‘How many Zahra’s and how many Ashis’s.’ Our code for how many newborn girls and boys in Oure Cassoni. I wish for the girls and she for the boys. Seldom do you meet someone with such a positive energy. After a night without sleep because of three deliveries she will not go home for a sleep. ‘No Ashis, there is work to be done’

Since the age of fifteen she has been working as a midwife and her training was in a big city in Sudan called El Fasher. Thirty years of experience.

She had to flee her beloved Omboro 3 years ago. Janjaweed and Government of Sudan troops were burning her house and that of her neighbors. Antonovs were bombing the village before. Zahra like many in the village overnight lost six close neighbors and had to rush away in to the mountain to seek shelter. Packing some essential belongings in her two donkeys a six-day walk on a dangerous voyage through the desert to attempt to reach neighboring Chad. During the flight troops were in hot pursuit and Antonovs were strafing the terrain with bombs.

Bahai and its surrounding filled up with 18.000 refugees from her and two neighboring villages; Kornoi and Farawaya. Refugees were camping out under the trees and the already vulnerable water well was heavily taxed. Zahra’s donkeys died within three days in Bahai because of the poor quality of the water.

Her sister who had two young children passed away after three months leaving her to take care of them. When I asked her yesterday if she wanted to go back to her village her answer was crisp and clear. “Not until my niece and nephew have completed there school. ‘ As the International Rescue Committee was looking for qualified health staff Zahra was amongst the first to be recruited and as I wrote about some mails ago a first health post was set up under a tree to take care of the health of the Sudanese refugees.

Three years later and Zahra received her diploma from the Chadian Ministry of Health as a midwife and nurse with distinction as she said one of the best things to happen to her since many years. During that ceremony she was given a new name by the leaders of the community; Uum Zahra, Mother of the community.

The last two months with the help of Melel the Reproductive Health department has received an immense boost. Before 30 women came per day for antenatal check ups and now the number has nearly tripled, breastfeeding mothers & pregnant women (about 300) get supplementary feeding, blood group screening is being done as is screening for syphilis, deworming takes place as well as addition of folic acid and iron tablets to prevent anemia. As a result instead of 5 deliveries per week in the health center we see about 8-10 deliveries and Dr Remy sees all the babies. The fledgling department needs expansion. We have found 1 midwife extra in the camp, hired ten traditional birth attendants and we will be building two extra consultation rooms.

And this week there were 4 workshops on gender based violence and clinical management of rape survivors for protection staff, nurses, midwives, traditional birth attendants and community health workers. Roughly ninety people trained by Sonia an expert form IRC from New York. It was extremely insightful concerning ones own prejudices and conceptions. From here on we hope to integrate parts of this approach in our health programs overall.

Zahra and her team are working magic. And every day I have the pleasure to see her radiant smile.

As long as there are people like Zahra the spirit of the Sudanese refugees can never be crushed. No bombing or other violence will chase them away.


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Anonymous Marilyn said...

What a wonderful tribute to what sounds like a truly remarkable woman.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Ashis said...

And she truely is



1:14 PM  
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