Motherhood in difficult places

Motherhood in difficult places | World Vision Blog

Felistus with her newborn twin boys in Zambia. (Photo: 2014 Jon Warren/World Vision)

Mothers in the most difficult parts of the world need help to have healthy pregnancies and healthy children.

Read what it was like for Felistus in Zambia to give birth to her twin boys by candlelight at an understaffed and under-supplied clinic, and how World Vision maternal and child health programs are bringing help and hope to mothers in communities around the world.


When you’re a new parent, there are always surprises … finding out that you’re having twins in the delivery room is usually not one of them!

Felistus Moono, a 28-year-old mother in southern Zambia, had a tough pregnancy. Excruciating pains would send her to the Kanchomba Community Health Center where she would be examined by Nurse Agnes—the sole nurse serving a community of 15,000 people. Nurse Agnes has just the basics: a stethoscope, a thermometer, and a scale to weigh and measure. An ultrasound machine is beyond her imagination. And that’s why Nurse Agnes didn’t know that Felistus was actually carrying twins.

On the night of the delivery, Felistus felt awful. Like most people in the village, she went to the clinic on foot. “I was almost ready to deliver, but there was someone in the bed.”

Kanchomba Community Health Center only has one delivery bed. They quickly moved the woman who had just delivered. “The first thing I started experiencing was severe bleeding,” says Felistus. “Before they put me on the bed, I was frightened. There was a lot of blood already from the previous delivery.”

It was dark by now. As the clinic has no electricity, Agnes lit a candle. She held the candle in one hand and prepared to catch the baby with the other. Stenley was born. And then Felistus heard a surprising sentence.

“Ah,” said Nurse Agnes, “there is another.”

“I was not prepared for two children,” says Felistus. “I only had clothes for one.”

Steven was born next—born by candlelight.

“I was dizzy,” says Felistus. “It was dark.”

Agnes brought in a mattress for Felistus and her two new babies. “There is not space to rest,” says Felistus. “We slept together on a mattress. I had to sleep in the same room where I delivered.”

Afterward, with no running water in the clinic, Felistus washed up in a public toilet. In this community, public toilets are latrines. They have no running water, only a hole in the ground to use when relieving oneself. Felistus’s delivery was a nightmare—giving birth to two babies, not one, in the dark. But she is grateful to Nurse Agnes for keeping her alive. “Death was waiting for me,” she says. 

Millions of mothers around the world face similar circumstances during pregnancy and childbirth—walking long distances while in labor, giving birth in ill-equipped clinics or at home, and being in unsafe conditions. Many do not survive. In countries classified as “least developed,” 1 in 55 mothers will not survive pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 mothers in developed countries.

Motherhood in difficult places | World Vision Blog
Women at St. Luke's waiting shelter preparing a meal. (Photo: 2015 World Vision)


One community in Zimbabwe, without a government hospital, was likewise seeing a high number of mothers and babies dying from pregnancy-related complications. St. Luke’s Hospital was built initially as a mission hospital, and then turned into a district hospital with 24-hour obstetric care. However, many women in the community were still delivering their babies at home because the hospital is far, the roads are poor, and the cost of travel is expensive.

The scenario was turned around when the community participated in World Vision’s Channels of Hope program for Maternal and Child Health. This program works with faith leaders in the community and relies on scripture-based guiding principles, interactive activities, and scientific information and messages so that together, couples come to a greater understanding of what is needed for healthy pregnancies and newborns.

The Channels of Hope program sensitized the community to the needs of expectant mothers, and the result was St. Luke’s Maternity Home. St. Luke’s is a waiting shelter where mothers can come about a month prior to their estimated due date to live so they’ll be prepared to deliver their babies at the hospital. They can take their time traveling, are not caught off guard if labor comes early, and have skilled care to help with any complications.

The result? Now 97% of mothers deliver in the hospital and lives are saved.

We celebrate this incredible success for the community, but it is still a difficult place to be a mother. The waiting shelter is often overcrowded—it is meant to sleep 11 and often sleeps over 20. Mothers, who pay for their own food, often end up using their transport money if they stay longer than expected.

Mothers in the most difficult places still need help.

*Additional reporting by Kari Costanza.

Our Global Week of Action begins today! Join us as we speak out for mothers around the globe. Send an email to the White House with our online form to remind America's leaders to protect the lives of mothers everywhere.

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