May 5, 2020, Montevideo, Uruguay (PAHO)
Leonor Andino never imagined that she would ever provide care to pregnant women and newborns during a pandemic. At the age of 5, she drew herself in a white apron and a robe with a red cross and surrounded by guaguas (babies). Time passed, and when she turned 17, she began her midwifery studies. Day after day, she got increasingly excited about the profession she had chosen, especially when she witnessed deliveries. She still remembers the day she attended her first childbirth.
I was so interested that I stayed to watch six deliveries in a row. Soon afterwards I was helping the midwife who was my teacher; I would hold the bag for her to put the placenta in.”
She graduated at the age of 21 and began her career at San José Hospital in Santiago de Chile, where she still works in the neonatology department. When she first entered that department, she immediately remembered her prophetic drawing of babies around her.
The day of this interview, Leonor had just completed a 24-hour shift in the new working setup adopted to minimize the movement of people during the pandemic. Health care workers are on duty for a whole day and then get three off. They carry two uniforms so they can change in the middle of their shift. “We are adapting a number of actions, in addition to the use of protective equipment. For instance, we take our own food from home - we do not go to the cafeteria - and in my case, I sleep in my car to avoid crowded resting areas. We are doing everything we can to do our job in the best possible way, so as not to spread the virus or catch it ourselves,” she stated. Despite the current situation, she says that midwifery is the job she likes the most, in addition to teaching at the University of Chile.
Based on data provided by midwives’ associations, the Latin American Midwives Federation (FLO, for its name in Spanish) estimates that in Latin America there are over 65,000 midwives. These professionals are involved in many of the more than 10 and a half million childbirths that take place in the region annually.