Meet Two Midwives in Sierra Leone
Midwives support mothers from pregnancy to delivery and beyond
Posted on Jun 7, 2023
About half of Partners In Health’s (PIH) clinical workforce are nurses and midwives, mirroring global trends.
Midwives, in particular, are vital to women’s health. The care they provide helps women with the spiritual, psychological, and physical experiences of childbirth and motherhood.
In Sierra Leone, PIH is honored to work with 14 midwives that support mothers from preterm care to postpartum care at PIH-supported Wellbody Clinic and Koidu Government Hospital (KGH) in Kono District. These midwives, in partnership with PIH, work to reduce maternal mortality across the country.
Meet midwives Aminata Kamara and Harolda Onike, who share more about their work below.
Aminata loves being part of a mother’s journey. A special bond is created between mothers and midwives, she says, that spans from the early weeks of pregnancy to postpartum care.
And for her, the most joyful moment is “when you hear the baby cry, affirming that you have delivered a healthy baby and a healthy mother.”
Aminata has come a long way. The 34-year-old former nurse was once afraid of delivering babies.
With mentorship from colleagues and hands-on experience at KGH, she has since faced that fear. She has delivered more than 200 babies since 2019, when she began working as a midwife.
In the future, Aminata hopes that midwife training becomes widely available across Sierra Leone and that there is at least one midwife for every pregnant woman. Right now, she cares for about five or six women in labor at the same time. Across the country, she’s one of fewer than 500 midwives. Another part of her job is to investigate maternal deaths to determine the cause. Simultaneously, she finds ways to support grieving families.
It’s a challenging job, but also rewarding—especially when babies are delivered safely. Building relationships is a key part of the work. In fact, Aminata often runs into former patients while shopping at the local market.
“They approach you with so much gratitude, saying ‘oh sister, you are the one who delivered my baby and they are so big and healthy now,’” says Aminata, noting that sometimes the women give her food to show appreciation. “Moments like these are priceless and affirm how special the support of midwives truly are.”
Since she was a child, Harolda Onike has admired her grandmother’s work as a midwife. It inspired her to pursue midwifery, too, and ultimately find her “spiritual calling.”
“The most beautiful thing is bringing a life into this world,” says Harolda, a midwife in KGH’s maternity ward. “It gives me so much passion to safely deliver a baby into the world without complications."
On a typical day, Harolda supports the delivery of ten babies during her 12-hour shift—from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The deliveries are usually a mix of natural births and scheduled and emergency C-sections.
Recently, she supported a lifesaving delivery. A first-time mother was referred to KGH by a smaller clinic. Upon arrival, she was diagnosed with obstructive labor pains and was making minimal progress. At one point, the baby wasn’t breathing; the mother was given an IV, among other types of care. Within an hour of arriving at KGH, staff began an emergency C-section and the mother delivered the baby—but it still wasn’t breathing. With the support of the special care baby unit staff, Harolda and her colleagues resuscitated the baby. Both mother and baby are now happy and healthy.
Stories like this—and seeing Sierra Leone’s progress in maternal health care—are what gives Harolda hope. In particular, she looks to the Maternal Center of Excellence, which broke ground in April 2021 and will provide advanced maternal and child health services in Kono District and beyond.
“With that structure, people all over the country will be able to access free and quality health care,” she says.
Eight years into her career, she remains passionate about this work and supporting midwives. On a daily basis, she mentors junior colleagues, providing the same support she received early on.
To current and future midwives, she says, “Keep the fire burning…although there are challenges, this is the most beautiful and fulfilling work.”