Seventy-five-year-old Florence Nakhumicha from Sango village in Bungoma County has been a midwife since 1974.
That was before a dispensary was constructed in the village.
Even though she does not have formal midwifery training, Nakhumicha says that she started attending to pregnant women and assisting them to deliver in absence of trained nurses.
She attends to about 15 pregnant women daily, with some coming from as far as Uganda to seek her services.
“Some of the women are usually referred here by people who know me well, I massage and advise them to visit local health facilities when necessary.
“I can tell the sex, size and the position of the baby in the womb and even detect any other complications,” says Nakhumicha.
She was 27 when she decided to help mothers giving birth in villages when health centres were scarce.
“I still do the work with dedication,” she said. “During the massaging process I can tell if the baby is in a good position or not, and I can also reveal if it will be a baby boy or a girl.”
Her services are free, but some of her clients might give her a token in the form of household commodities or cash.
Nakhumicha says in the 1990s, clients used to give her live chicken or Sh50.
Due to the rising number of diseases and other pregnancy-related complications, midwives are now not allowed to assist pregnant women in labour and are required to refer them to health centres.
“We held a consultative health stakeholder meeting with health professionals in Bungoma four years ago and traditional birth attendants were told not to let women deliver at home.”
Nakhumicha keeps contacts of nurses at different local health facilities who she can easily reach in case of any emergency.
“I could be illiterate but I learnt some skills from a European doctor who taught me how to massage and assist a woman in labour to deliver safely.” She cared for all her daughters-in-law.
“I have never doubted her skills and capabilities, whenever she senses danger, Nakhumicha will reach out to the nurses and ensure a pregnant mother gets specialized attention in the hospital,” said Nakhumicha’s daughter-in-law, Emily Wakoli.
Emily says that when she was pregnant with her sixth child, doctors used to tell her that she would deliver through cesarean section.
“I shared the same with her (Nakhumicha) and she was able to solve the problem using herbs and advised me accordingly.”
Speaking to The Standard at Bungoma referral hospital yesterday, Janet Masibo, who was attending at an ante-natal clinic said that she preferred seeing a midwife at home due to the long distance to the nearest health facility.
“Sometimes, you find long queues at the hospital because there are only one or two nurses attending to pregnant mothers,” she said.
Some women resort to seeing the midwives at home because going to a health facility is costly.
Marry Khaemba, a midwife nurse at Bungoma County Referral Hospital said they discourage home deliveries whether with the help of midwives.
According to Khaemba, the traditional birth attendants do not possess requisite knowledge and skills that would be critical in the event emergency occurs.
“Many of them have zero knowledge on how to handle complications that may occur during delivery. We insist pregnant mothers must deliver at health facilities which are spread all over,” said Khaemba.
The officer says a mother might have not dilated enough to push a baby but once she gets to the midwife, the first thing she will be commanded to do is to start pushing the baby a situation that could put the life of the mother and the unborn baby in danger.
Immediately after delivery the newborn has to be weighed and its health status ascertained by an expert before it is immunised, this cannot happen when a mother is delivering at home because midwives do not have the knowledge, skills and requisite medical tools and equipment.” said Khaemba.