By The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), 2020
Aminata - she's the kind of person who takes you in with a smile.
A midwife from the Mauritanian town of Rosso, along the Senegalese border, Aminata came here to Bassikounou, a mughaata (department) about 80 km from the border with Mali, for her work.
At the Mbera Camp Health Centre (in Mauritania’s Malian refugee camp), Aminata is in charge of the maternal health unit. She admires her co-workers - the same ones she has had since 2016.
In total, it is a team of 5 traditional birth assistants, 5 midwives and 4 hygienists, who provide rotating services to ensure that maternal health care, such as pre- and post-natal consultations, is available on an ongoing basis. This is essential to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates. Between January 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019, Aminata and her team assisted 495 births.
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.
It is Fatimatou’s third child born in this camp. The head midwife, Namatou, who works with the aid organisation ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action), 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). EU humanitarian funding is supporting ALIMA’s projects in Bassikounou to provide heath access to host and refugee communities.
The security situation in this area is still very volatile, as it depends not only on the incidents near the borders, but also the difficult farming conditions, given the climatic changes and a high rate of malnutrition.
While the mughaata 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 centres 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, Aminata can visually monitor a pregnancy to know, for instance, the child's age and sex, check the baby's correct position and ensure that the placenta is in the right position. It also allows her to control the amount of amniotic fluid, detect any obvious malformations and monitor the foetal heart rate.
Aminata also uses this device for post-natal consultations which up to 42 days after delivery are still carried out by the gynaecological unit. She makes sure that the new mother does not have any cysts or fibromas, and the scanner also enables Aminata to check the mother’s kidneys, liver and other organs.
What Aminata loves most about her work is that she 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 a 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, the emotion,” she tells us.
"We don't collect things, but moments, moments of life."