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NORTHFLEET: Midwife returns from month volunteering in Nigerian clinic

8:00am Thursday 16th July 2009

By Michael Purton

MIDWIFE Jo Watts recently returned from a month volunteering at a clinic in Nigeria. She told reporter MICHAEL PURTON about the trip.

On June 7 mother of three Jo returned home from Lagos, where she had been helping in two maternity clinics run by charity Wish For Africa since May 10.

Nigeria has the second highest maternal death rate in the world, and the 43-year-old, who qualified as a midwife in September, showed staff at the clinics some of the practices she uses at Darent Valley Hospital.

Donations from the hospital and individuals allowed the Milroy Avenue, Northfleet, resident to take equipment to the clinics.

She was also able to help patients pay for their treatment, as healthcare is not free in Nigeria and the national minimum wage works out at around just £20 a month.

Jo said: “While I was at the clinic a lady named Funmi had a caesarean section.

“She had lost her first baby during child birth and had one daughter, and both times she’d had a caesarian section, and there was concern that if she had gone into labour this time she would have died.

“She had to pay a small amount for the procedure, about £80, and on the basic wage she could not afford it up front, so I was able to pay for it.

“The caesarean section probably saved her life.”

Jo helped during the procedure, and says it was a challenge because the clinic “does not have running water so they have to go back and forth to a well next door” and “equipment is primitive”.

She added: “The fact is the staff at the clinics need more training and equipment, but they are doing a great job with the limited resources they have.”

Before the trip, Jo’s 53-year-old husband Tony was worried about her safety out there, as Nigeria has a history of visitors being kidnapped for ransom.

However, Jo says she never once felt threatened, as everyone was friendly and she was well looked after by representatives from the charity.

She was able to keep in touch with Tony and her children Adam, 22, Emma, 19, and Beth, 7, via telephone and the internet.

However, these were often broken conversations, as the hotel’s electricity frequently cut out.

Despite the blackouts and a traffic system she describes as “chaotic”, Jo recommends volunteering in Nigeria, saying “You can make a real difference.”

Jo became aware of Wish For Africa when its founder Dr Femi Olaleye was working at Darent Valley last year, and her determination to help saw her pay more than £1,000 for the trip and take a month’s unpaid leave from work.

She now volunteers for the charity in the UK, and says she would like to return to Nigeria on a regular basis to continue the training of clinic staff.

On August 15 she is taking part in a 5km sponsored walk for Wish For Africa from Morrisons supermarket in Twin Tumps Way, Thamesmead.

For details about taking part, call her on 07810 822259 or email [email protected] For information on Wish For Africa, go to


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