Working in a country so different from your own can seem very overwhelming, but for Kimberley Community Midwife Kristy Newett, swapping the red dirt of Broome to the dusty streets of Tanzania was an experience she would 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 glimpse into the services and resources available to women in the country, and a greater understanding of some of the reasons maternal morbidity and mortality rates were so high in this 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 similar everyday issues faced by the rural hospital in Kisarawe, which took up to two hours to reach, in particular the issues related to access to services.
Kisarawe Hospital is the only option for many women living near the rural African hospital, with 900 births every year.
“We witnessed first-hand the lack of services available for an obstetric emergency, and hope that the training we provided will help these midwives be as prepared as they can be with the resources that they have,” Kristy said.
The Midwifery and Neonatal Care Course sets out to strengthen health care systems by assisting to build 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.”
Training was also provided to midwives at Mwananyamala Hospital, where there are approximately 18,000 births a year, with 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 to be seen in a clinic, or gave birth with no air-conditioning, while I was running around with sweat coming off my eyelids,” Kristy said.
“I will offer my services as a volunteer midwife again in the future especially if the program rolls out to the remote villages of Tanzania as planned over the coming years.
“By then I will be ready for another challenge.”
The GHAWA program, funded by WA Department of Health, was delivered by three Australian midwife facilitators, including Kristy, and was completely free for the participants.
GHAWA is an organisation which aims to collaboratively support developing countries through the provision of nursing and midwifery education, training and clinical resources.