Fatouma, obstetrician nurse, Mali
This is Fatouma Sadou. She’s an obstetrician nurse at the district hospital in Angsongo, Mali. It’s a difficult job, for a host of reasons, but she is determined to succeed against the odds.
On the day that Oxfam arrives to speak to her, Fatouma is upbeat. “Today is Thursday, my favourite day,” she explains. “It’s the only day the pregnancy clinic is free. I really feel like I’m reaching women today.”
It’s a feeling she would prefer to have more often, but at the moment it’s unlikely. There is a serious lack of equipment at the hospital, and both the electricity and water supplies are unreliable. “We hardly ever have running water,” she says. “The nurses have to go and fetch water from a well, and from time to time we have to buy bottled water from people selling it nearby.” The electricity situation is equally bleak: “When there is an emergency at night, sometimes we have to work with torches.”
Fatouma is desperate for change, but far from despondent. The first thing she says after introducing herself is: “I love my work because I am here to help women and children.” And when asked about her greatest hopes for the clinic, she answers without hesitation. “My dream is to have a reliable source of running water and constant electricity. I also hope that women will get to know about our work, and will come to the clinic so we can reduce the levels of maternal mortality.”
She spends a lot of time spreading the message about the clinic, and especially letting people know that the usual fees – which many people in the surrounding rural communities are unable to pay – don’t apply on Thursdays. “If women know they can come and be treated for free,” she explains, “they will come. If they know the medicines will also be free, they will come. But because they don’t know about our free weekly service and free medicines yet, they don’t come.”
As she goes about her work, Fatouma is confident, caring and assured. The women at the clinic clearly appreciate her help and support, and she is in little doubt about the role the hospital can play in helping the local communities to develop. “In our society, if you want to change something,” she suggests, “you should always start with the women and children. If you reach them, then you can reach everyone.”
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