Celebrating Midwives: The Unsung Heroes of Maternal Health

Celebrating Midwives: The Unsung Heroes of Maternal Health

News & Events > News & Stories > Celebrating Midwives: The Unsung Heroes of Maternal Health

Amidst the hustle and bustle of hospitals and clinics, a cadre of diligent workers labour tirelessly to ensure the safe passage of new life into the world. As the world observes International Midwives Day, Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) takes a moment to honor the unsung heroes behind countless safe births and healthy mothers—midwives. Join us as we shine a spotlight on the incredible journey of Nour Al Sayyed, a passionate midwife making a difference in the Baalback-Hermel project.

It was a bright sunny morning when Nour arrived at the MSF-run primary healthcare clinic in Arsal, a border town on the outskirts of the Baalback-Hermel Governorate. As she stepped through the doors, a sense of purpose enveloped her, energizing her for the day ahead. Inside, the clinic hummed with activity. Doctors and nurses attended to the patients while expectant mothers sat patiently in the waiting area, their faces alight with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. For Nour, each day brought with it a new opportunity to make a difference, to be a source of reassurance in the lives of these women. With a smile on her lips and a gleam in her eyes, she embarked on her rounds.

Globally, maternal mortality remains a significant concern, with a death occurring almost every two minutes in 2020 according to the WHO. In Lebanon, the fight against maternal mortality remains a crucial one and midwives like Nour stand at the forefront, offering vital support to women and families during the vulnerable journey of pregnancy and childbirth. In 2023 alone, MSF assisted more than 2,900 expecting mothers to deliver their babies safely under medical supervision.

Nour’s journey into midwifery was driven by a deep-seated desire to make a difference in the lives of others. “What attracted me initially to the field of midwifery was the opportunity to provide support and assistance to women and families during pregnancy and childbirth,” the 28-year-old shares. Her commitment is fueled by the satisfaction of witnessing the surge of happiness on a mother’s face when hearing her baby’s first cry after birth. After starting as a midwife in MSF’s Mother and Child Center in Arsal, Nour became a full-time midwife in the MSF clinics of Arsal and Hermel, where MSF provides primary healthcare services to patients with non-communicable diseases (such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy), sexual and reproductive health services for women, paediatric medical consultations, and mental health services to vulnerable communities in surrounding areas. Throughout the day, Nour’s schedule is packed with everything from counseling women and providing family planning services to conducting clinical examinations, assisting during childbirth, and offering support throughout the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum periods. In MSF’s primary healthcare clinics of Arsal and Hermel, Nour provides comprehensive care and health advice for pregnant women. Beyond clinic walls, Nour and her colleagues extend their services, venturing into the many camps of Arsal, where pregnant women cannot easily access health care services. Currently, MSF extends outreach activities to tens of camps and informal tent settlements in and around the Arsal vicinity. A traditional town in the mountainous region on the border with Syria, Arsal is home to 50,000 residents and over 20,000 refugees, according to UNHCR. Our midwives conduct daily educational sessions and offer family planning services to approximately 40-50 women a day within these camps.

MSF midwife Nour surrounded by a group of women during a community outreach session in Arsal, northeast Lebanon. In addition to their clinic duties, MSF's dedicated midwives engage in fieldwork, promoting sexual and reproductive health among vulnerable communities. Copyright MSF/Kholoud Othman

Among the challenges Nour faces in her daily work, there are moments that stand out. “One defining moment that reignited my dedication to midwifery occurred during a night shift at MSF’s Mother and Child Center in Arsal. The mother was severely anaemic and fully dilated. As I prepared to assist her delivery, I discovered a critical situation endangering both the mother and the baby.” With the urgency of the situation pressing upon them, Nour and the nurse on her team had to embark on the delivery. The baby emerged in a critical state, and Nour swiftly began resuscitating, while simultaneously ensuring the mother doesn’t bleed out. After those testing minutes, Nour and the nurse on call stabilized both the mother and the child for eventual referral to a specialized hospital for recovery. “I’ll never forget those few moments, though” reflects Nour. “Witnessing the baby’s eventual recovery and the mother’s relief was both humbling and exhilarating. Especially since the mother had lost two babies immediately after delivery during previous pregnancies… It’s moments like these that remind me why I chose this profession – to bring hope and ensure the well-being of both mothers and babies.”

Nour holding a pair of twins she helped deliver during her time at the MSF's Mother and Child Center in Arsal. Copyright MSF

But it’s not just the critical moments that define Nour’s journey; it’s the gratitude that lingers long after. “I love it when mothers come in with their children and refer to them as ‘my’ babies,” Nour shares.

As we celebrate International Midwives Day, MSF acknowledges the invaluable contribution of midwives like Nour. They are not just healthcare providers but pillars of support, guiding women through one of life’s most transformative journeys. To all midwives, MSF extends a message of support and appreciation for their tireless dedication to women’s health and well-being. Your commitment enriches lives and strengthens communities, embodying the essence of compassion and care.

MSF midwife Nour Al Sayyed laughs with a mother and child she is consulting while on a community outreach visit in a camp in Arsal. MSF/Kholoud Othman.
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