"Death was waiting for me"

When you’re a new parent, there are always surprises … finding out that you’re having twins in the delivery room is usually not one of them! 

Felistus Moono, a 28-year-old mother in southern Zambia, had a tough pregnancy. Excruciating pains would send her to the Kanchomba Community Health Center where she would be examined by Nurse Agnes—the sole nurse serving a community of 15,000 people. Nurse Agnes has just the basics: An ultrasound machine is beyond her imagination. And that’s why Nurse Agnes didn’t know that Felistus was actually carrying twins.

On the night of the delivery, Felistus felt awful. Like most people in the village, she went to the clinic on foot. “I was almost ready to deliver, but there was someone in the bed.” Kanchomba Community Health Center only has one delivery bed. They quickly moved the woman who had just delivered. “The first thing I started experiencing was severe bleeding,” says Felistus. “Before they put me on the bed, I was frightened. There was a lot of blood already from the previous delivery.”

It was dark by now. As the clinic has no electricity, Agnes lit a candle. She held the candle in one hand and prepared to catch the baby with the other. Stenley was born. And then Felistus heard a surprising sentence. Steven was born next—born by candlelight. “I was dizzy,” says Felistus. “It was dark.”

“Ah,” said Nurse Agnes, “there is another.” “I was not prepared for two children,” says Felistus. “I only had clothes for one.”

Agnes brought in a mattress for Felistus and her two new babies. “There is not space to rest,” says Felistus. “We slept together on a mattress. I had to sleep in the same room where I delivered.” Afterward, with no running water in the clinic, Felistus washed up in a public toilet. In this community, public toilets are latrines. They have no running water, only a hole in the ground to use when relieving oneself. Felistus’s delivery was a nightmare—giving birth to two babies, not one, in the dark. But she is grateful to Nurse Agnes for keeping her alive. “Death was waiting for me,” she says. 

Felostus’s delivery was a nightmare - giving birth to two babies, not one, in the dark”

Death was waiting for me”

Millions of mothers around the world face similar circumstances during pregnancy and childbirth—walking long distances while in labor, giving birth in ill-equipped clinics or at home, and being in unsafe conditions.

Many do not survive.

In countries classified as “least developed,”  1 in 55 mothers will not survive pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 mothers in developed countries.