The lives of 93 babies have been saved in the largest refugee camp in Rwanda following the launch of a revamped state-of-the art medical facility with the capacity to carry out caesarean sections.

Sarah* 31, with her third baby, born healthy due to a C-section. ©Thacien Biziyaremye/Save the Children

Mother and child health in the first place

The fully equipped medical centre in Mahama Refugee Camp in eastern province near the border with Tanzania opened in April this year. The centre is run by Save the Children and can carry out up to three C-sections daily for refugee women and those from local neighbouring communities.

Prior to the opening of the centre, any emergency obstetric complications were referred to a hospital in Kirehe, a town about 35 kms away along extremely bumpy, dirt roads, with the journey taking about 1.5 hours.  Many women would arrive at the hospital in advanced stages of labour or have given birth during the journey, putting their own and their baby’s life at risk.

Data showed that 48% of the women referred to Kirehe District Hospital with obstetric complications required an emergency C-section, with many others experiencing post-birth complications due to the lack of support during labour.


Post-birth complications with lifelong impact for children

Sarah, 31, a mother of three, has lived in the Refugee Camp for eight years. She told Save the Children that she suffered complications when she was due with her firstborn and had to be rushed to Kirehe District Hospital for an emergency caesarian section. By the time she arrived at the hospital, her baby’s head had already begun crowning.

Sarah said: „When I arrived at the hospital, doctors told me that the baby was already between pelvic bones. They started pulling the baby’s head to help him come out. As a result, my baby boy was born tired and with a physical disability.”
“My son should be in the first year, but I didn’t enroll him in school because his body’s parts are not functional and he can’t talk. My firstborn should not have a disability. If I had had surgery within the camp, the doctors could immediately have performed a caesarean section instead of travelling to Kirehe District Hospital.”


Possibility for C-section helps Sarah

Mahama is the biggest of six refugee camps in Rwanda, hosting more than 58,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Caesarian sections are a vital service for women experiencing complications in birth. Without access to these operations, babies’ and mothers’ lives and well-being are at risk.

In April this year, Sarah underwent her second successful cesarean section at the new  health centre in the Mahama complex, giving birth to a healthy baby boy, her third born. Due to health centre’s proximity to her home, her family members could visit her in the health centre and care for her.


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The camp’s maternity wards see an average of 140 births per month, along with 80 consultations per week for expecting mothers.

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