A midwife tends to a newborn baby who is wrapped in colourful blankets
VSO/Paul James Driscoll

A neonatal intensive care unit at Suhul Hospital

It was Rahel Beyan’s lifelong ambition to nurse people back to health. In Tigray, Ethiopia, where she lives, she’s been working as a nurse alongside VSO volunteer Miriam Etter to improve conditions at Suhul Hospital – making her dream a reality.

Whilst rates of infant mortality are dropping across the world, the statistics appear to be less positive for newborns, who account for around 43% of all under-fives' deaths - 73% of which occur within the first week of life.

Rahel's story

VSO volunteer Miriam and midwife Rahel look through patients' files together
VSO/Paul James Driscoll
VSO volunteer Miriam Etter has been working alongside five dedicated NICU nurses, including Rahel, at Suhul hospital 

"I wanted to go into medicine because I always liked the idea of nursing. Even when I was a child it was my favourite pastime. I dreamt of being a nurse when I grew up. Now I get to treat ill patients every day and making them better makes me happy. 

"When I first came to Suhul Hospital, there was no separate room for mothers and babies. They were with the other adults on the ward.

"I was just like any other nurse, with no specialist training.

"When they told us a VSO volunteer was coming to work with us, I immediately said I wanted to work with them. I was happy to do that. The other nurses were to shy or couldn’t speak English, but I could speak a little bit.

"I went on some training so I could work on the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that we were going to set up - it would separate the mothers and babies in their own ward. Before that, if a baby was hypothermic or lacked oxygen, there was nothing we could do. There weren’t enough facilities - only one incubator that we didn’t know how to use or how to put children inside.

"Then VSO came here, and we got training and the additional facilities."

Now we can give them [babies] oxygen and medicine - it’s simpler. Babies would have died before and now they are more likely to survive.

Rahel Beyan

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A smiling young mother lies in a hospital bed and holds her newborn baby on her chest
VSO/Ginny Lattul


We've worked in Ethiopia since 1995, building healthy communities and strengthening inclusive education systems.

Nurse at Arbaminch Hospital | VSO International

Reducing newborn deaths

Improving access to quality healthcare for mothers and their babies.