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Safe Motherhood in Seattle during COVID-19

Jul 13, 2020

The following is an abridged excerpt from Seeking Mama Amaan (Safe Motherhood) in Seattle during COVID-19, by Rachel Chapman, Muna Osman, Hodan Raige, Sumaya Mohamed, & Nafiso Egal.

It is published here with permission.  

Safe Motherhood in the Time of COVID-19

Culturally congruent, decolonized, community-led responses to COVID are critically important and potentially life-saving.

In Seattle, Somali team members of the Mama Amaan Project are delivering care on the frontlines of the Somali community in South Seattle as essential workers, while also serving as community-based researchers.  As such, the team are exposed to the effects of the pandemic up close: vulnerability to job, food, and housing insecurity; social isolation; and lack of access to health care, especially with language interpretation, has only intensified.

A core shared value across the Somali community, and in fact, throughout the Muslim faith, is daryeel – Somali for an abiding commitment to helping others in need and visiting those who are sick and suffering to bring sustenance and comfort. It has seemed at times, as if COVID policies of sheltering in place, social-distancing, quarantine for those with symptoms and aggressive test-seeking was falling by the wayside.


The Mama Amaan Project—safe motherhood in Somali—emerged from a series of community organizing relationships and advocacy partnership efforts, culminating in the implementation of an innovative perinatal education and doula care model in South Seattle’s  Somali community.

The project is a partnership between the Somali Health Board, Somali Doulas Northwest, Parent Trust for Washington’s Children, University of Washington, and Health Alliance International.

Recently, tragic news circulated of a Somali mother and grandmother in one family dying of COVID within 48 hours. This sounded an alarm that is passing by trusted word of mouth. Community leaders have guided the outpouring of community care by suggesting alternatives to visiting, like contributing to a Go Fund Me.

In this urgent time, the Mama Amaan team turned to a project activity that is needed right now. Ubalbalaadhi hooyo – the Mama Amaan project’s What’s App and Facebook accounts were initiated to allow women to attend our peri-natal groups in Somali from home, and even send in questions Somali care providers answer online or during a session. Today, a social media gathering trusted and enjoyed by Somali women is perfect to share COVID-related information.

Here are three messages for our communities and for caring providers to take time to convey:

1. Protect yourself, family and community. Wash hands often, especially after going out on an errand or work, and stay home whenever possible. Wear a mask if you have one when going out or even at home if you have symptoms of dry cough, fever, tiredness, shortness of breath. Covering the nose and mouth wearing hijab helps to protect yourself and others.

2. Take good care of yourself. Build your immune system by taking your Vitamin D, C, and Zinc. Make sure you eat fruit and vegetables, and get plenty of rest. Mental and emotional health matters, so tune into your feelings. Start or continue exercises, like a 30 minute walk or dancing with your kids. And lastly, reach out and tell someone when you cannot cope with stress and anxiety.

3. Seek medical care. If you have COVID early symptoms – dry cough, fever, tiredness, shortness of breath,(may include loss of appetite, smell or taste, sore throat, head or body aches) – get medical attention. If interpreter services are not provided, please make a request. You have the right to be understood in your language.

Remember, takawal A’ala allah – do your best and trust Allah. Thank you! Mahansanid!

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