Jemimah Makau, midwife
Jemimah has been a midwife at Emali Model Hospital in Makueni County, Kenya, since 2011. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way women in Makueni have deliveries, and Jemimah fears for the women in her community.
My name is Jemimah Makau. I'm a midwife and nurse from Makueni County, Kenya.
I live in Emali, a fast-growing city in Makueni County. I am happily married and the mother of two daughters, aged seven and three years old. Since 2011 I have worked with great passion and dedication as a midwife at the Emali Model Hospital. I would like to give you a glimpse into my life.
I vividly remember the first delivery I was allowed to supervise. When the child was born, it was magical. A life-changing moment. Now, COVID-19 has really changed the way women have their deliveries.
Malnutrition means babies aren't growing at the rate they should be
I live near the hospital. Every morning at 8 o'clock I go to the hospital with my driver. Here in Makueni County, everyone uses a motorcycle taxi.
Usually I am in the hospital around 8:30 AM. Sometimes I arrive and immediate action is needed and I’m called up for a delivery. If there are no urgent matters, I start the day taking care of the pregnant women. I do checks like measuring blood pressure and see if the babies are growing well. Unfortunately, now I notice because of the corona crisis that many women don't have enough money to buy food. Because of this I see that the growth of the baby does not always go as it should. We have vitamins and porridge here at the clinic that I can give them so that the baby and mother are not at risk of malnutrition.
As a mother I know how important it is to have someone next to you, someone you can rely on, share your fear and insecurities, who guides you before, during and after your pregnancy, who’s monitoring your new-born and you as a mother.
I really hope I that I can be that person for girls and women in my community when they expect a baby. Because of that, it’s such a big privilege, to be on the threshold of life.
No more home visits
Around 11 o'clock I give talks to the women to help them understand their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Before the corona crisis I used to do this in front of a large group but now I need to be careful with the contamination of the virus so I do this on an individual basis. You can imagine that this takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. I give my number to the women so they can call me in the evening if they have any questions. This is now widely used. I am not only their nurse, but also a real support.
Amref Health Africa has given us additional training, so we can make sure that women receive good quality care during their pregnancy, labour, and recovery.
Once a week it is "mothers day." All young mothers come together. I give vaccinations, weigh the babies and see if they grow well. Before the corona crisis, I often went on house visits, but that’s not a good idea because we lack personal protective equipment. Our Community Health Workers (CHWs) need to be protected.
It can feel like taking ten steps backwards
At the end of the day I will do the administration. I will keep track on how many babies are born and which mothers visit the hospital. Because of the corona crisis, I see fewer mothers than usual. This is because we have a curfew and they often fear that they will not be home in time. I am concerned about this because there are now more women who choose to give birth at home. One woman even died this week [April 2020] because of serious complications. If she was in the hospital I might have been able to help her.
You feel powerless when you hear such a terrible thing. Losing a mother is heartbreaking. Especially if you know you might have been able to help her if she had gone to the hospital. We refurbished the hospitals together with Philips, which resulted in more mothers visiting the clinic. It feels like we're taking ten steps back now due to the virus.
I always tell my colleagues; treat your patient like you would like to be treated yourself if you were a patient. Listen carefully with understanding and be the one they trust. It always comes back to you.
The strength and resilience of women is unbelievable
I dream of a world, a Kenya, where girls and women can make their own decisions when it comes to having children. Where they can decide if, when, and how many children they want to have. Where they can give birth safely.
The circumstances where we have to work are tough, but we support each other and the power of nature and the strength and resilience of women is unbelievable. I’m really thankful and happy that we can give the women of my community the help they need.
Together we move forward in better health. For all the mothers and their babies in the future. Every day.
Jemimah Makau, Midwife and Game Changer
"I dream of a world, a Kenya, where girls and women can make their own decisions when it comes to having children."