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Midwives are the backbone of healthy communities: the story of Nuam’a

In June 2019, amidst ongoing conflict in Tripoli, UNFPA inaugurated a newly rehabilitated and equipped maternity ward in Weryemma polyclinic,* to provide quality reproductive health services to mothers and newborns in Libya. Since then, 54 women had safe deliveries and more than 8,765 were supported with medical consultations at the polyclinic, which served as the only Primary Healthcare Center providing Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) in Tripoli.

Nuam’a is a 33-year-old midwife at Weryemma polyclinic, she has been working in the maternity ward since it was inaugurated in June 2019. “I was born in Cairo, and I moved to Libya with my family in the early 90s, when I was only 3 years old. I grew up in the west of Tripoli, where my father used to work. I never felt like a stranger in the community and I always loved this country as mine. When I was 12, my father’s contract was terminated and we were forced to return to Egypt. I was very sad, but something in my heart told me we would be back again.

As a kid, I loved a lot of things, one of them was sports and particularly basketball, regardless of the fact that I was one of the shortest kids in my school and between my friends. But I surely loved something more than all of that: I loved medicine and I loved kids, so I always wanted to do something that combines the two. This is why I have chosen to study nursing and I specialized in gynecological medicine. When I was on my 4th year, my father was offered a job in Libya again, he really loved it here, so he took the job and moved back with my mother and sisters, while I stayed in Egypt to finish my studies and follow them later, as studying was very interesting, particularly when they assign us to do practical work. It was my first time to witness a delivery, I was expecting in my thoughts for it to be easy, but I came to my senses when I saw it. I even doubted myself to become the midwife I wanted to be, being scared is normal, but I’m glad it didn’t stop me and I finished doing what I have always wanted to do.     

In 2005, I was reunited with my family after I was done with school, and I was looking for a job for few months when a friend of mine recommended me for a job in a private clinic, and that’s when I started my profession for real. At first I was bit worried that I would be received differently because I’m not a Libyan staff, but I found that all my colleagues were supportive and all the people I helped were very nice, so this has given me a lot of motivation to do the job I love. If you are not a midwife, you will probably not understand the feeling of helping a mother deliver. When you hold the baby for the first time ever and give it to the mother, the look she has on her face and that moment when all the pain turns into happiness, that’s why midwives keep doing their job, not only to help other women, but also for the peace that comes with it.

I came to motherhood for the first time in 2009, being a mother has indeed helped me to understand my job better, especially when I talk to women who are expecting normal delivery. In my opinion, there is not enough information and awareness for women about the normal delivery. With the right education and training, a midwife is capable to provide 80% of essential reproductive maternal health services. I remember as I was talking to a pregnant woman here in Werryema polyclinic about the normal delivery, I found out that she was internally displaced due to conflict, with nowhere to stay, and me and my nurse colleagues managed to find her a suitable shelter for her and her family. Few weeks after, she has given birth to an adorable and healthy baby. This is what it really means to be a midwife, it’s to serve the community and help families get the chance they deserve. 

This career path has been exciting and I still see myself doing it for the years to come. I still see myself in Libya for years to come, I never left it in this hard time and probably will not leave it when peace comes back to the country. I love it as much I love Egypt and I consider it to be my home also.”   

UNFPA is improving the capacity and resilience of health systems for the provision of integrated sexual and reproductive health services, including for the most vulnerable. With the support of the European Union, UNFPA is assisting the Ministry of Health to improve retention and motivation of midwives and specialized nurses in Libya, while focusing on developing evidence-based policy framework to enhance quality, affordable and accessible midwifery and nursing care and education.

Since its inauguration, UNFPA’s supported Weryemma polyclinic in Tajura municipality has served an average of 60 women and children daily, providing lifesaving reproductive, maternal and newborn health services. The health facility was hit by grad rockets on 29 April 2020 and is now closed for rehabilitation due to damages to the building. The health facility is the only reproductive and maternal health facility for a population of 48,000 in Tajura municipality of Tripoli. UNFPA echoes the United Nations Suport Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in strongly condemning the attack as a violation of international humanitarian law. Closure and damage to healthcare facilities in the context of COVID-19 pandemic puts all people in Libya at greater risk.

* The Weryemma polyclinic was inaugurated and supported thanks to the generous contributions of the Government of Canada and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.