On a balmy Wednesday afternoon in the “North Darfur Midwifery Training Centre” in El Fasher, thirty young women listen attentively to Reproductive Health Tutor Hawa Osman Ushak, as she discusses the necessity of sanitation when delivering a baby. The women, dressed in clean white garb, learn in detail every step in the process alongside broader concepts of pre- and post-natal health services. Hygiene plays a key role: sterilization practices are crucial to guarantee that newly born babies are protected from any infection despite the challenging environments where these mothers sometimes have to give birth.
The training is supported by UNDP Sudan as part of its community security interventions in the Darfur region. With funds from Canada (DFAIT) and support from UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), the initiative aims to respond to the security concerns that the communities themselves have identified, thereby strengthening the social cohesion between groups as well as bolstering the relationship between communities and state authorities. The community security project is one way through which UNDP and national partners, help create an enabling environment for the future reintegration of ex-combatants in Darfur, while controlling the proliferation and use of small arms.
Community consultations conducted in December 2011 in the Srief locality, situated 45 kilometers from El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, revealed that in addition to the significant number of small arms remaining in the community, serious deficiencies in all areas of the community infrastructure, especially health and education, negatively affected the community’s own sense of security and raised anxiety about the prospect of future conflict.
Today, the situation is much improved: weapons are no longer publicly displayed or carried but are kept secured and their access requires the consent of community leaders. Through UNDP support, the community has been provided with trainings on leadership, HIV/Aids, voluntariness, peace building and reconciliation. Other activities have included the construction of a community centre using voluntary community labour and natural materials. All of these activities have strengthened the social fabric of the community, according to the local Umdah or traditional leader
UNDP is now supporting the training of ten midwives coming from the El Sreif area, where the current lack of doctors and clinics dramatically affects maternal and child health. After extensive consultations on the ground with the community members of El Srief it was decided that the training of midwives was crucial in addressing the security risks that young women faced walking the long distances in their remote villages to receive adequate medical and reproductive health care.
In October 2012, after ten months of intensive theoretical and practical training, these young women will become employed by the Ministry of Health thereby ensuring the sustainability of the project. By then, they will have acquired the necessary midwifery skills to be able to provide both pre- and post-natal care services to expectant and lactating mothers in their communities of origin.
“The long distances that pregnant mothers need to cover to be assisted pose a great number of threats, not only for their health, but also for their personal security”, explains Michael Juma, coordinator for the UNDP Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) project in Darfur. The deployment of these trained midwives into their villages will significantly help in reducing maternal death, including those dying because of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, in an effort to improve overall maternal health care services in North Darfur state.”
This project has been made possible through the generous support of the Government of Canada/Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade(DFAIT) and UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR).