As a child, Nancy Kamilo wanted to grow up to be a pilot. In her village of Raja, just west of Wau, she dreamed of soaring into the sky, far away from the conflicts tearing apart her homeland.
Yet as a teenager, things changed after she called on sick relatives in the hospital, or women about to give birth. “I’d see the suffering of the mothers, and I changed my dream immediately,” she said. “I wanted to become a midwife.”
In 2018, Kamilo ended up at the Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau. Sponsored by Solidarity with South Sudan, an international Catholic network, CHTI trains midwives and nurses to work throughout Africa’s newest country.
“I had a great experience at CHTI,” she said. “At first I didn’t know any of these things, but the tutors and the principal, the trainers, all the training in the lab and the practice in the hospital all got me to the point where I learned how to deliver a mother.”
Now a registered midwife working at the St. Daniel Comboni Hospital in Wau, Kamilo thinks her chosen vocation is better than being a pilot.
“In South Sudan, many mothers are dying, and the traditional birth attendants [who attend many births in rural areas] don’t know the proper techniques of delivery. It pains me a lot. We have very few registered midwives in South Sudan. That’s why I chose to become one, so that I can help mothers who are suffering. And their newborns,” she said.
“I love being a midwife. And I’ll be one until the end of my life. I won’t change. Sometimes when you see a newborn baby, you feel great. You feel like God is with you. Though it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s hard to deliver a newborn, but it can really be a blessing. I think God chose me to be a midwife.”
Kamilo is convinced that midwives–in a country at war–can be peacemakers.
“In the hospital, we have people who come from many different tribes. We have Dinka and Balanda and others. But inside the hospital we are all South Sudanese. No matter where you come from outside, inside we are one people,” she said.
“As we do health education with the mothers, we get to know them and they make friends with each other. We need to continue like that. Mothers have good hearts. We can all learn from them. We midwives have a great opportunity to bring peace in South Sudan.”
Story and photo by Paul Jeffrey