Not your average Midwife

Ben is a 56-year-old father of seven. Since starting to work in Bungoma County, Kenya in 1988, he has assisted in the delivery of approx. 5,000 babies.

He is really liked by the community. They are comfortable with him and feel he’s a very good midwife. Women have so much faith in him. They request Ben, instead of the doctor.

Kind words, highlighting exactly why Ben Lubisia Masinde is not your average midwife (other than the fact that he is male), spoken by his colleagues.

Ben is a 56-year-old father of seven. Since starting to work in Bungoma County, Kenya in 1988, he has assisted in the delivery of approx. 5,000 babies. Such is the respect that the local community has in him pregnant mothers have followed him from his old workplace at Chwele Hospital to his new workplace, Sikhulu Dispensary in Bungoma County, Kenya, significantly increasing, month on month, the number of deliveries at the dispensary.

Ben uses any opportunity to educate the local community about the dangers of unsafe abortion, the dangers of using Traditional Birth Attendants and the importance of having a skilled delivery. This is especially important because in Bungoma County only 62.6% (HMIS, 2016) of women give birth assisted by a skilled provider.

While this percentage is higher than that of women in the poorest communities in Kenya, it is significantly lower than the richest, urban areas where 92.7% of women receive assistance from midwives, nurses, auxiliary nurses or doctors. 

Working at a dispensary gives Ben more freedom to act quickly in the case of complications. At larger facilities, decision-making protocols during emergencies can cause fatal delays. Although the weak referral system is still one of the biggest challenges Ben faces.

Ben is aware that the local community faces difficulties in travelling to the nearest hospital. In Bungoma County there is a lack of ambulances and ambulance drivers.  On occasions when an ambulance is not available he has driven patients in his own car or, when there is no driver, he has driven the ambulance himself to the community and collected expectant mothers.

Despite the dispensary officially open only eight hours a day Ben shares his mobile number with all women who have attended antenatal care, meaning he is on call 24/7. He’s frequently left out of pocket due to having to purchase petrol, gloves and oxytocin himself.

Catherine Karani, a former colleague, stresses that

Ben is hard working, and always ready and willing to help his colleagues. Midwives working alongside him frequently call him to assist, or for a second opinion. They trust him and are very comfortable consulting him for advice.

Post-natal health checks from a skilled provider, including Midwives, in the first two days after birth are also highly important. Across Kenya, only 49.1% of mothers attend these health checks.

Again, there is a huge variance in the percentages of women in urban areas who receive this vital care (65.8%) versus rural areas (39.8%) while in the Western Region of Kenya, where Bungoma County lies, only 30.9% of new mothers attend these post-natal health checks. All the more reason to celebrate Ben’s commitment to the local community, and the passion he has for his work.

We asked Ben what advice he has …

"First of all midwives should know that the patient has come to you for help. She has trusted you, you have to empathise, talk to her nicely, and attend to her concerns. Labour is painful. Midwives need to be understanding. Women need constant reassurance that pain is normal, that it will go away after delivery. Even if someone screams in pain, you have to reassure them that it’s ok. When women call and ask for their back to be rubbed, I respond. Midwives need to treat clients how they would like to be treated themselves".

An extraordinary Midwife and an inspiring man.

No wonder so many mothers in the local community name their sons Ben!

Find out more about Midwives in E4A-MamaYe’s Malawi and Nigeria programmes, following the link below. 

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