LAOS: Magdalen Muraa, "I started asking myself, 'Why did I come here?'"
Magdalen Muraa, mother of three from Uganda, is training midwives in Laos with UNFPA
LUANG PRABANG, 16 November 2011 (IRIN) - The Laos government is tackling its notoriously low maternal and child health indicators with a massive midwife training campaign
Magdalen Muraa, mother of three and a UN Volunteer from Uganda, arrives at Luang Prabang's regional hospital every morning at 7am to help train the future midwives. She had previously worked in a Laotian village in the northeast, the only African there.
"After being a nurse for three years in Uganda, I wanted to become a midwife because it is a joyful thing. I then trained for two years and worked as a midwife and trainer for 10 years. When I saw the posting for a nurse midwife clinical trainer in Laos I thought, 'Why don't I give that a try?'
"At home, in Uganda, we have so many midwives and I felt that I could help.
"I took a one-week intensive course in Laos language training when I arrived in 2010 and I moved to a rural part of Xiengkhouang Province in the northeast of Laos.
"I lived under stress. As an African, everyone in the village was always saying 'Come and see, come and see!' They wanted to touch my skin and see me up close. I would get so humiliated and at the end of it, I would stay indoors. I would just go to work from 6am to 9pm and then go home. My only colleague was my TV.
"And I started asking myself, 'Why did I come here?'
"But I came as an expatriate to be able to transmit information and when I thought about it, people were really kind. Even though I lived in this intense situation, I learned and I never worried about my safety. And one thing is, I have never met arrogance in this country.
"Here they have many impractical ideas about maternal health. They only allow new mothers to eat rice, and they cannot drink water. For one or two weeks after the baby is born, everyone comes to visit the family, at a time when the baby and mother have weak immune systems.
"These are things we have to change. But we have to know the culture and respect it, while we try to also show new ways to the community.
"Midwifery takes maternal health to a higher level. You can have midwives, but if they don't have passion, then it's not going to work.
"Now that I am in Luang Prabang, I am much more at ease than when in the village. I will go back to my family in Uganda in a few months and it will have been two years for me as an African in Laos."
Health & Nutrition,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]