Mothers Supporting Mothers: Filling the Health Gap in Somalia
How we're celebrating inspirational mothers on Mother's Day.
Mar 30 2019
This Mother’s Day we’re celebrating the inspirational mothers that not only work hard to nurture and raise their own healthy children, but help other mothers to do the same too.
In Somalia, we have trained mothers to become community health workers. These mothers forge an important connection between their villages and formal health systems, by educating fellow mothers on nutrition and health practices.
Walking into a group session with mothers, Rahma Ali holds the tools of her trade: a mid-upper arm circumference band to detect malnutrition, a book illustrating healthy breastfeeding, hygiene, and sanitation practices, and a medical records ledger. Rahma is a mother and community health worker in south western Somalia, serving as a vital link between the families in her village and the nearest health centre.
Prior to becoming a health worker, Rahma started as member of a mother-to-mother support group at the Maternal and Child Centre in Hudur, Somalia, supported by Action Against Hunger. Participants share stories of motherhood and its challenges, and learn from each other about childcare, health, and nutrition.
“Joining the mothers group gave all of us a chance to share our experiences and open up about the challenges we face in seeking health care services,” says Rahma. “Sometimes, the main reason mothers shy away from seeking health services at the local centres is because the medics who attend to them are men, and they find it difficult to explain to them what they are going through.”
One of the midwives from the Maternal and Child Health Centre saw leadership potential in Rahma and a few others from the support group. She provided nutrition trainings to the mothers so that they could educate other mothers in their village.
Today, Rahma and three other mothers work as community health workers and serve 500 households. They share essential health information with women in their community and check in on mothers daily. Pointing to a column in her register, Rahma shows that she referred 26 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to the health centre in the last week alone.
“Some of the mothers in my village were reluctant to seek nutrition and health care services at the centre, yet they were the ones who were most in need,” she says. Instead, the mothers felt more at ease talking to health workers like Rahma who lived in the community and had a shared experience of motherhood. “I offered my services to the mothers by going door-to-door, organizing group forums, and sharing nutrition and hygiene messages,” says Rahma.
During one of her door-to-door sessions, Rahma met with Halima Mursal, a mother of five, who was three months pregnant. Rahma encouraged her to visit the health centre for prenatal services to make sure that her pregnancy was a healthy one. Today, Halima is the proud mother of a beautiful baby girl named Anisa, and Rahma and the other health workers check in regularly to share their nutrition and hygiene expertise.
“It is always my joy to see women and their children living a healthy lifestyle because of the information we provide,” says Rahma, proudly. Rahma tells us that she does this because she is a mother too, and she understands what fellow mothers go through on a daily basis.“It is not an easy job, but we do it for our community because we are the backbone of our society.”
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