I became a health worker because I used to see photos of midwives during polio campaigns and liked the uniform and hair-style.  I kept the photo in my bedroom. I was 16-years-old.

I get real pleasure out of delivering babies but I get frustrated when mums do not listen to my advice about immunisation. First, I remind them of immunisation sessions at the clinic. Then I have to force them to attend, either bringing an ambulance to their homes to collect them, paying their bus fare or taking them on my scooter. Once there was a woman who insisted on staying at home. I took the vaccines to her house.

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, we used to lie on the floor or go to a bunker for protection but we were still delivering pentavalent vaccine to local mums. When all the fighting was over, there were no beds, no furniture at the clinic, not even a door. We used to sit outside on wooden benches on the verandah. Instead of an examination bed, we had to use a mat on the floor. It was very difficult.

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Photos: Gavi 2013/Sanjit Das

Note: Mathumitha’s clinic was rebuilt with Gavi health system strengthening funds after its roof was looted during Sri Lanka’s civil conflict.