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Report by Hannah Merret

Brydon Williams, Nenko and Emma Mills

A few months ago, two of our local midwives asked whether I would be able to accompany them on a trip to Ethiopia to photograph the work of their charity Midwives@Ethiopia. In May of this year, what started off as a light-hearted conversation over coffee became a reality, as I joined a small team travelling to Southern Ethiopia for 10 days. That trip was life changing.The charity works with midwives and midwifery tutors in Southern Ethiopia (mainly in and around Dilla) to develop and deliver training packages to improve maternity care. A small team travels from the UK twice a year to give ongoing support and training to health care professionals in Ethiopia, where there are only a handful of hospitals for the 81 million population. With maternal mortality rates in Ethiopia currently sitting at around 1 in 26 women, the work of this charity is invaluable.

Many mums in our local area will know Brydon Williams, one of our wonderful community midwives. Brydon is one of the six volunteer trustees of Midwives@Ethiopia. In Brydon’s words: “The charity’s work falls in line with the internationally set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at improving maternal and child health as well as with the Ethiopian Governments Strategy for Health. Much of the funding has come from the Welsh Government, Hub Cymru as well as from a Sainsbury’s charitable trust (Headley Trust). Fundraising efforts are on-going and we are always glad of help and support with this. The latest project has been to support a nominated health centre in setting standards to improve Women Friendly Services for their facility. We aim to make the work sustainable by cascading skills, and low cost teaching aids are used where possible. Local knitters keep us supplied with knitted items. As an incentive for rural women to use health centres and access skilled health care we have been providing one Health Centre with basic ‘Postnatal Kits’ (baby hat and jumper/babygro, soap and towel). We also provide low cost ‘Clean Delivery Kits’ to the Health Centre we link with. We have produced beautiful picture cards; primarily for village health workers to use to convey essential pregnancy and neonatal related health messages to rural communities. A small sample of these items can currently be seen on display in the Abergavenny Castle Museum.”

A team of six of us travelled to rural areas of Ethiopia in May. Although I had spoken on many occasions to the midwives about the charity’s work, nothing could prepare me for the reality of seeing conditions in rural Ethiopia first hand. We worked specifically with one Health Centre, as mentioned by Brydon above, to develop a set of maternity care standards. This centre was situated at the top of a very steep 4km dirt track, and provided care to women during pregnancy and delivery, along with serving the community in general with an out-patients clinic. I’m not sure many of us could image having to walk several kilometres up a steep hill when either seriously ill or in labour, but this is the reality of many rural communities in Ethiopia. The staff at the centre were absolutely fantastic, but in many ways the odds were stacked against them with a lack of running water, electricity, and other facilities. The charity midwives absolutely stunned me with their skills and knowledge during our time at the health centre – they worked tirelessly to deliver training, working in partnership to develop standards of care. It was incredible to see just how valued the work was by both the staff and local community.

Hannah Merrett

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