Strength of Tanzanian women inspires Broome midwife

Kimberley Community Midwife Kristy Newett recently swapped the red dirt of Broome for the dusty streets of Tanzania and had an experience she will never forget.

Kristy was offered a teaching position for a month in Tanzania through Global Health Alliance Western Australia (GHAWA), and was able to get a greater understanding of some of the reasons maternal morbidity and mortality rates were so high in the African country.

“As my passion and background is in remote midwifery, I felt the experience I brought with me added value to my teaching and placement,” Kristy said.

“I could relate to some of the everyday issues faced by the rural hospital in Kisarawe – which sees up to 900 births every year, takes up to two hours to reach and is the only option for many women living near the rural African hospital.

“We witnessed first-hand the lack of services available for an obstetric emergency, and I hope that the training we provided will help these midwives be as prepared as they can be with the resources that they have.”

The GHAWA Midwifery and Neonatal Care Course, funded by WA Department of Health, was delivered by three Australian midwife facilitators, and was free for participants.

GHAWA strengthens healthcare systems by assisting in building leadership capacity in Tanzania through the provision of resources, and innovative education and leadership programs for midwives.

“Each two-week comprehensive course consists of one week theory and one week clinical practice, allowing participants to implement the training in a supportive environment, with us on hand to answer any questions,” Kristy said.

Training was also provided to midwives at Mwananyamala Hospital, which has approximately 18,000 births a year and many women are required to share a bed when the hospital is at capacity.

“There was often a lack of consumables, especially sterile and non-sterile gloves, and women were required to purchase their own birth kits including catheter and drainage bag, sterile gloves, syringe with needle, oxytocin, and cotton wool,” Kristy said.

“The limited privacy or access to water and hand-washing facilities was quite confronting, with only one basin available with running water for the maternity ward and labour ward, and no curtains around each labour bed."

Kristy said she was blown away by the patience of the vast number women who attended the antenatal clinics, who would sit for hours in the 40-degree heat waiting to be seen.

“I witnessed such strength in the Tanzanian women as they waited patiently or gave birth with no air-conditioning, while I was running around with sweat coming off my eyelids,” Kristy said.