Asmere is 20 years old. She is pregnant with her second child and has an appointment at the Hamlin Midwifery Clinic at Ambesame – the closest clinic to her home. Today she will for the first time experience a prenatal service that is inaccessible to most women in regional Ethiopia: an ultrasound.
Asmere has been here before: three years ago, Asmere safely gave birth to a beautiful daughter. For Asmere and her husband, the quality care that she received from Hamlin Midwives at the Hamlin Clinic in Ambesame during her first pregnancy was incredibly valuable. Nevertheless, she did not have access to an ultrasound machine during her first pregnancy. In Asmere’s case, the closest ultrasound service used to be 60kms away, in Bahir Dar.
Inaccessible no more
For most women in rural Ethiopia, an ultrasound is a luxury. Ultrasounds are only available in hospitals in major towns and carry additional service costs. This has become a significant challenge for rural clinics in providing accurate prenatal care; without accurate prenatal care through ultrasounds, the chances of a safe delivery are reduced.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, through its prevention program, is bolstering prenatal care in clinics across regional Ethiopia with its rollout of portable ultrasound services. This pioneering program is the first of its kind by an Ethiopian NGO. Thanks to the generosity of IMC Asia Pacific and other Australian friends and donors, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has been able to purchase 13 portable and rechargeable ultrasound machines. All of the midwifery mentors at the five regional Hamlin Fistula Hospitals have been intensively trained so that they can visit rural clinics each month and conduct ultrasounds.
Mentors making a difference
Hirut, a midwife mentor at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Bahir Dar, has diagnosed 20 expectant mothers today. “It is tiresome but I am happy that I accurately know the status of the women and their foetus to make the necessary preparation. This is a game-changer project with large demand,” she says.
Hirut has started the day early, driving 60kms on difficult off-road conditions to reach the Ambesame clinic. There, a number of pregnant women identified by the local Hamlin midwives, are eagerly awaiting the new portable ultrasound service. Among these women is Asmere.
Asmere lies on the examination bed, her eyes locked in awe on a small TV monitor as Hirut examines her stomach with a probe. She marvels: “I have never heard of or seen this in my life; this is my first time. The midwives told me it shows the actual movement of the foetus and accurately confirms its status, so I said okay. And miraculously, I saw my unborn baby moving inside me. I know it is in good condition – I am so amazed!”
More Hamlin midwives will be trained in using the ultrasound machines and the service will continue to expand. You can support Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Prevention Program here.