Refugees study to safely deliver babies

Refugees study to safely deliver babies

You might have given or received an Everything in Common gift at Christmas. The impact of such gifts is felt around the world, such as in the Kamuma refugee camp on the border of Kenya and South Sudan. Cath Taylor visited this camp and learned how lives are being saved by student midwives who had to leave their families and homes due to warfare.


There’s an old saying: “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” Sometimes, though, perhaps we can do both.

Kakuma refugee camp is a sprawling mass of humanity on the border between Kenya and South Sudan. Under canvas and tin supplied by the UNHCR and the Kenyan government, more than 150,000 people make their homes. Many people are separated from brothers, sisters and parents, due to fighting across the border in South Sudan and Somalia.

Into this maelstrom, another little life emerged last month. Her name is Deborah. She might never have been.


Training for life in the face of death

It was an ordinary morning for young South Sudanese midwives completing their practical in the Kakuma Mission hospital. Many are in their early twenties and, with the help of the Uniting Church in Australia, have been relocated from the South Sudanese town of Leer due to heavy fighting. Their training facility was torched.

Some of the women don’t know where their families are. Many fled into surrounding bush as rebels stormed the Leer area. Husbands are missing. Children gone.

But the young women carry on with their studies, supported by the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency of South Sudan, a UnitingWorld partner. They’re determined to finish their midwifery courses and when stability returns, go back to their country and serve their sisters. In the meantime, they study at Kakuma and serve their fellow refugees.

“A woman from the camp was brought in to us,” recalls trainee midwife supervisor, Rachel, about a recent experience. “She was haemorrhaging and her child was experiencing fetal distress. An emergency caesarean was required to save her life and the life of her child. She was South Sudanese and spoke only Dinka, and the doctor requested that our student speak with the distressed woman in Dinka and explain the procedure to her.”

Further complications arose. Permission was needed for an operation that would save the mother’s life, but make it impossible for her to have more children.


A mother’s joy

The student midwife was again called upon to assist, patiently persuading the family of the absolute necessity of the operation — in spite of the risks and long-term outcome. Some hours later, a healthy child was born and the mother’s life was saved.

“As the mother began to recover, she told our midwife, Deborah, how much her support and encouragement had meant to her.” Rachel says.

“It was so important to the young mother that she has named her child after the midwife – Deborah.”

“In South Sudan, too many mothers and babies die in childbirth,” says Deborah, the midwife who provided such important assitance to that suffering mother. “I have wanted to be a midwife since I was in primary school. I want to make sure that mothers don’t suffer.”


Helping others, no matter what

It’s pretty amazing to reflect on this love and determination, given these young women are displaced from their homes. Living as refugees with no way of knowing where their families are or when they might see them again.

UnitingWorld’s Everything in Common catalogue has a range of gifts that help us support people like Deborah in South Sudan, saving the lives of mothers and babies. Or you can help train Christian leaders to share the good news of Christ in India, the Pacific and Africa.

To find about the work of UnitingWorld please visit


Cath Taylor


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