Q&A with Halima Ahmed Dalel,a nurse at the SOS Children’s Village Mother and Child Clinic in Somalia

Healing the pain of displaced women and children in Somalia
July 2020

For five years, Halima Ahmed Dalel has worked as a nurse at the SOS Children’s Village Mother and Child Clinic in Somalia, located at six miles from the country’s capital Mogadishu. Her patients are the internally displaced women and children who reside in the 10 large IDP camps that surround the clinic - home to about 60,000 people. Halima says the terrible suffering she witnesses every day breaks her heart, but she remains motivated by the difference she makes in the lives of many families. This is her story about how she promotes the welfare of women. 

What does your work entail?

Women and children living in the IDP community are at the heart of what I do. These families have lost everything and have come to seek refuge from floods, drought or conflict. They are vulnerable, impoverished and they need healthcare. I aim to work until every child and mother is healthy. I am a mother of one child, and I see her in the 15 plus children I touch every day. It is my duty and responsibility to alleviate their pain as much as I can.

My work comes in different shapes and forms. For example, I receive calls to support mothers delivering in their IDP homes, and who cannot reach the health facility because of extensive bleeding. The situation can be life threatening to both the baby and the mother. At times, I ask a doctor from the clinic to accompany me to ensure quality care in this delicate situation. I then personally follow up with these cases until the mother and child are stable.

I distribute delivery kits to expectant mothers in the camp to avoid such emergency situations. In the kit is a plastic bag, towel, and oil for the baby, disinfectant for the mother, two pairs of gloves, a razor blade and cod clam for the umbilical cord. With these items, the mother can safely give birth to her baby at home with help from any available health worker.

I also counsel mothers and women experiencing violent relationships at home. A husband will beat his wife for visiting the health centre without his approval. The woman comes to me with bruises on her face. I calm her down and listen attentively to her grievances. I refer tough situations to a local organization dealing with gender-based violence where women receive legal redress and more counselling.

Which is one challenging situation you have handled?

I handle numerous difficult cases. A mother who had given birth at home without any assistance recently came to me. She was still bleeding, and her small baby was shivering from lack of warm clothes. The mother did not have food in her house, and she was hungry. She had relocated to the camp only a few days ago from another region in Somalia because of drought and famine. I get so emotional when I receive such desperate cases. I left the room to compose myself since I did not want to show my emotions to the mother; I came back to her after a few minutes. I treated her and referred her to the maternal and child health and nutrition programme to receive food donation. 

Another mother came to the health centre with a sick child suffering from malnutrition. The mother was heavily pregnant, and she was experiencing lack of family strenghtening because of poverty. The child had other complications like vomiting, diarrhea and high temperature. I referred the case to another medical facility where the child was admitted receiving proper medication and nutrition supplements. My goal is to safeguard and preserve the life of every child in my care.

Are there any threats to your work?

I receive threats from husbands who do not approve their wives need for medical assistance. I take time to explain to them the importance of health and nutrition to the mother and the baby. After a long explanation, they agree that she continues with treatment. Not most husbands behave like that though, only a few from the rural areas who have never seen or accessed a health facility.

What motivates you to keep working in this environment?

I am happy working in this hard conditioned IDP settlement because I learn new ways of handling crisis and emergency cases all the time. There is no better reward than seeing the results of my work from directly helping vulnerable people in need of assistance. I am satisfied and motivated when I see sick children gain strength and healthy mothers taking care of their children, even under very tough conditions. I am strong for the families I work with.

Source: SOS Children's Villages International

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