By Chika Mefor-Nwachukwu
When Liyatu Ayuba (a traditional birth attendant) revealed that she had helped deliver 118 babies in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp at Durumi 1, in the Area 1 axis of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from 2014 till present, I didn’t understand the level of sacrifice she and her assistant, Hadiza Ali, had put into the venture until I encountered a labour and child delivery at the camp when I went there to snoop for stories.
It was on a rainy day. I had set out to meet with Ayuba, Ali, and possibly some of the women who had been privileged to have the unskilled midwife assist in their child delivery, without knowing that I would be greeted by another unsettling scene. But on the contrary, I should perhaps consider it to be a case where I waited for that particular scene to happen on me since I was the one that sat down comfortably at the clinic and hanged on to meet with Ayuba. It was not long after I took a seat that a pregnant woman, who clearly was in discomfort, walked in.
While the pregnant woman who was simply identified as Mary sat with me in the container which served as labour room and consultation/storeroom, she kept moaning at intervals and rubbing her protruding tummy.
Upon asking, she told me she was eight months pregnant and didn’t know what was wrong with her.
Realizing that she might be in labour, I became scared for her. Prior to her arriving, I had had discussions with the camp’s Public Relations Officer, Umar Gola, who had intimated me on the health challenges that the IDPs were being subjected to.h
The people had little or no access to health facilities and the clinic was being run by a community health worker simply known as Grace, who came to the camp only three times in a week.
Gola who commended the health worker, stated that she had sacrificed her time to help the people even though her salaries had not been forthcoming for months.
“Someone brought her to be helping us and other IDP camps in Abuja. The person paid her for her services. I think she was being owed for few months. Sometimes, we contributed for her transport fare,” he had revealed.
Gola had expressed worry over the health of the women and children in the camp, as there were no drugs available in the clinic.
“It was just one NGO that brought some malaria drugs and vitamins for the children. I told them to concentrate on the children,” he had told me.
Now, you know why I was worried for Mary. I became even more worried, when Ayuba, the protagonist in my story, arrived eventually and announced to my consternation that they lacked kits for child delivery.
She then asked Mary for her scan and the poor girl revealed that throughout her pregnancy, she had not done any scan.
“I didn’t have money for scan,” she said in between short gasps.
When I told Ayuba of Mary’s revelation about being 8 months gone, the unskilled midwife immediately wore her glove and started examine the soon-to-be mother. She then came back to tell me that Mary was due for delivery.
“You know, if you don’t go for scan, you will miss the counting and become confused about the months,” she explained.
Now check this scenario out! There was a woman in labour and then the items needed for the delivery of her baby were not available. The displaced persons who noticed the anomaly quickly raised money among themselves and bought the required items which Ayuba used in facilitating the easy delivery of Mary’s baby.
The pregnant woman had come for the delivery with nothing. A native of Gombe State in North-Eastern Nigeria, Mary had come to Abuja to seek greener pastures but fell pregnant for a man whom she had met while trying to settle down in the Federal Capital. He then abandoned her for an unknown destination. Mary had no one but her neighbors to help her through those trying times. Her only surviving parent she was told, had just died on the previous day in her village, so she was not only in the pain of labour but was also in the pain of losing her dear father.
I prayed earnestly for her to at least have a safe delivery as Ayuba and Ali worked diligently to make it happen. I had the chance to have brief talks with Ayuba within the short intervals that she came out of the labour room to take fresh air.
The 62- year-old woman had fled Borno State with her wounded son after the Boko Haram sect had begun its onslaught in the North-East. Her husband who was a staff of the Nigeria Police Force, was killed in Bama, Borno State, while on a mission. Ayuba arrived Abuja in 2011 with her son whom through the help of a non-governmental organization, received treatment and got healed.
She then decided to help pregnant women deliver safely when on one painful occasion, she watched one of the internally displaced pregnant women die in a government-owned hospital because they (hospital) refused to treat her without her making any payments.
“I decided to start helping women in the camp deliver their babies. I praise God because all the women have been delivering safely. I have not had any loss of any kind,” she proudly told me.
Ayuba who is from Gwoza local government area of Borno State, said she learnt the job of child delivery from her grandmother. It is a skill that has greatly benefitted the pregnant women in her camp.
She told me that she relied solely on donations from non-governmental organization and individuals for the items needed for child delivery, and further revealed that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a drastic decrease in the number of visitors to the camp, which in turn affected her job.
And upon interviewing Ali, Ayuba’s assistant, she disclosed that she enjoyed the business of bringing new lives into the world, and that she loved the favour that was attached to the job.
Also a widow, Ali whose husband was equally killed by Boko Haram, stated that though there were many challenges involved with the child-delivery work, she did it with joy because she loved helping others. She said they often had to cope with the lack of delivery kit and that they sometimes improvised, adding that they hardly ever had time for themselves as emergency calls could come at any time.
I had time to also interview some of the women that Ayuba had helped deliver their babies, and they were full of praises and prayers for her.
When it was time for me to take my leave, I made Gola promise to keep me updated on Mary’s condition. As at the time I was gathering my work tools and getting ready to leave, she was still in the labour room battling to bring her little one into the world.
I flagged down a commercial motorcyclist and got on the motorcycle to leave the area. Hardly had I moved a kilometer than I heard shouts from behind me. It was Gola and some other persons beckoning on me to come back to the camp. I did a detour and headed back to the camp only to be greeted with the news of Mary’s safe delivery. She had just had a beautiful light-skinned baby girl.
Oh! What an amazing piece of news! I was allowed to see her and the baby. It was a wonderful news that capped my day.
The new mother will need baby items and other necessities for her baby. The items will go a long way in augmenting for her most basic needs. Ayuba also will need more supplies for her labour room. Some of the needed items are; injections, drips, facemasks, drugs, under pads and cotton wool.
Other items include; olive oil, razor blade, detergents, hand gloves and disinfectant, among other things.