MOGADISHU, March 14 (Xinhua) -- When China constructed the maternity wing of Somalia's biggest public referral hospital four decades ago, little did they know that this department would stand to be the source of hope for Somali mothers.
The dream of providing quality and affordable maternity services for Somali women did not stop there, as several Somalis flew to China to study various courses in the medical field in order to realize this dream.
Maryam Omar Salad, a midwife at Banadir Hospital, is among a number of medical practitioners who were trained in China and are now applying the knowledge they acquired in China to save lives in their own country.
"My trip to China to study midwifery for three years was transformative. I did not only return with the knowledge and skill but also with a more expanded world view," Salad told Xinhua in an interview at the hospital in Mogadishu.
"I got a good experience from China on best midwifery practices and I am able to apply them here for the betterment of our mothers and children," she added.
Salad, however, paints a rather gloomy picture of the state of the midwifery department which has been overstretched over the years, saying most of the only existing facilities were donated by the Chinese government some years ago and there has been no expansion despite increasing usage.
Ruqiya Jamac, midwifery department officer shares the same opinion. Having worked at the department for the last three decades, Jamac is part of the history of the hospital. She said lack of facilities and space is a matter of urgency in the hospital.
Congestion is another challenge. "Thirty women deliver in this hospital every day. Some cases are normal while others bear some complications," Salad said.
"We also have to deal with cultural issues since some women and their husbands don't allow us to carry out cesarean section. But we tell them the need and the importance especially when the lives of the mother and child are at risk," she added.
The story of the midwifery department transcends the difficult times in Somalia. "Even in the face of the war, we were still able to help mothers deliver their children," said Salad.
Sharifa Haji, a displaced mother, whose sister is recuperating after delivery said Banadir hospital is the only option she and her sister have.
"The services here are totally free and for us as displaced people, this means a lot," said Sharifa.
The midwifery department of Banadir Hospital has 5 doctors and 15 midwives who work on 24 hour basis.