How Nigeria's 'Flying Midwives' Save Lives

Photographs by Lynsey Addario

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By Lynsey Addario

According to Unicef, an estimated 250,000 women displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria give birth every year. Some 50,000 of those deliveries will have complications that, without the assistance of a trained midwife, could result in the death of mother or child. Yet security concerns mean that there are fewer than 50 midwives in the region. They work in bare-bones clinics in IDP camps across the region, with few resources, limited electricity and the constant threat of violence. In March 2018, three health workers, including a midwife, were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the town of Rann and held for ransom. Despite pleas for their release, one nurse, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, was killed on 16 September and ICRC midwife Hauwa Mohammed Liman was killed on 15 October. “The news of Hauwa’s death has broken our hearts,” says ICRC’s Regional Director for Africa, Patricia Danzi. “We appealed for mercy and an end to such senseless murders. How can it be that two female health care workers were killed back-to-back? Nothing can justify this.” The women’s deaths, continues Danzi, "are not only a tragedy for their families, but they will also be felt by thousands of people in Rann and other conflict-affected areas of north-east Nigeria where accessing health care remains a challenge."

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