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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Samah's baby
The World Health Organization is following six women around the world to compare their experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. Here, Samah Mohamed from Egypt describes life with her year old child, Basant.

Damiana Mamani:

Samah Mohamed :

Hiwot Abraham:
Renu Sharma:


Claire Roche:

Samah Mohamed, 26, from Cairo, Egypt, has two other daughters.

Copyright - WHO/Heba Farid
'Basant loves spending time with her father'

She told the WHO: "We didn't have a party for Basant's birthday as our family is too large, and we stick to celebrating religious holidays."

"Last week she had flu, but she's feeling better now.

"She spends a lot of time with her dad these days, which always cheers her up."

Samah adds: "I am still breastfeeding Basant, but mostly she eats yoghurt, rice and meat - her favourite meal is liver. She loves bananas as well.

"Basant is used to walking around quite happily now. She uses words like mama, papa, Nada, Aya [her two sisters] and mum - an old Egyptian word meaning food.

"She hasn't quite progressed to using our mobile phone yet, although she likes playing with it!"

Samah said she and her husband do not want any more children.

But she added: "We haven't really given it much thought. What God brings is good, so if we were blessed with a fourth child, we would be happy."

In Egypt, 26 in every 1,000 children die before they reach their first birthday, the WHO says.

Nine months old

Copyright - WHO/Petterik Weggers
'Basant looks up to her sister'

"Basant is very cute - even if I do say so myself," says Samah. "At nine months, she weighs 7.5kg.

"She can stand up by herself, but she has not taken any steps yet.

"She has started saying two words: 'baba' for father and 'dada' for Nada - her big sister who she really looks up to."

Samah added: "Basant is very attached to her father. Because he holds two jobs, he only gets to see her for a couple of hours each day, but she instantly brightens up whenever she sees him."

The family have access to clean running water stored in a 50 gallon tank - necessary to cope with Cairo's regular water shortages.

Six months

"Basant weighs 7kg and is 63cm tall. Her teeth are starting to come through.

"I have just stopped breastfeeding. Basant is now eating lots of vegetables and fruit, juices, cereals, eggs and yoghurt. She especially loves rice pudding."

Samah added: "I have a booklet where I keep track of Basant's weight, height, health problems and immunisations. It was given to us by our local clinic.

"She has been fully immunised against polio, diphtheria, whopping cough, tetanus and tuberculosis."

In Egypt, 11% of between six and 11 months are underweight. The WHO says six-month-old girls should usually weigh between 5.8 and 9.2 kg, and boys between 6.4 and 9.7 kg.

At six weeks

She said: "I returned to work at the National Hospital Institute four weeks after Basant was born.

Basant's name means 'beautiful flower'

"My mother, sister and mother-in-law take turns looking after Basant while I'm at the office.

"This is easy to arrange as we all live in the same building."

In Egypt, one in 26 children die before the age of five.

The majority of deaths are due to preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia, malaria and measles.

Seven days

Samah and her husband named Basant after the word for 'beautiful flower' in classical Arabic.

Samah told the WHO: "At one week, Basant is in very good health.

'Basant wakes up a lot at night'

"She lost some weight the first few days after she was born, but she is now back up to her birth weight.

"She seems healthy and happy - her hair has grown slightly and her eyes are wide open now."

Samah added: "We had an appointment at the clinic this week and Basant received some vaccinations - but I'm not exactly sure what she was vaccinated against."

The WHO says that in Egypt, 16 out of every 1,000 babies die in their first week of life from preventable diseases.


Samah was in labour for just two hours.

"Pregnancy and birth are natural events for a woman.

"I already knew what to expect from previous births. I feel fine, very happy.

"The birth went well - it was natural and easy. One doctor and two midwives were with me throughout.

"The care I received was excellent."

Seven months pregnant

When Samah was seven months pregnant she said: "I went to the clinic today and they told me that I'm expecting a baby girl. I'm so happy!" Samah told the WHO.

"That means there will be four girls in the family - me and my three girls."

This is the first time that Samah has worked while pregnant and she is finding it quite tough, but her family is helping out with child-care and the preparation of meals.

The clinic have told Samah to drink lots of fluids, eat more than three times a day, and to add more fruit and milk to her diet.

Five months pregnant

At five months pregnant, Samah said: "During my first two pregnancies, I had no antenatal care. This time, however, I've had regular antenatal check-ups at a clinic in Old Cairo."

The WHO say just over half of pregnant women in Egypt attend at least one antenatal check up during their pregnancy.

Samah went back to work after her second daughter was born. She says she enjoys the small amount of financial independence it gives her.

In Egypt, one on 310 women dies in pregnancy and childbirth. Less than two thirds of women have a skilled attendant, such as a midwife, doctor or nurse, with them when they give birth.

The WHO recommends that all women should have access to skilled professional care to ensure the baby is delivered safely.

Where the women live

Photos courtesy of the World Health Organization.


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