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Home / Health & Science

Why women still give birth at home

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MERCY ADHIAMBO | Sun,Sep 17 2017 16:01:00 EAT
By MERCY ADHIAMBO | Sun,Sep 17 2017 16:01:00 EAT

 Midwife Topele Mepukoli during the interview at her home in Makurian location, Laikipia North. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Topele Mepakoli was about ten years old when she helped a woman deliver a baby.

She says memories of that day are blurry, but she will never forget her mother’s frantic calls that woke her up.

Her mother, a traditional birth attendant, was having a distressed patient and needed assistance.

“You need to learn how to deliver a baby, because some day you will have to help another woman give birth,” she remembers her mother saying.

Under muted light provided by a slow burning stick, Topele watched her mother pushing herbal medicine through the patient’s clenched teeth. Her mother signaled her to massage her lower belly.

“I had never been allowed in the room until that night. I was scared. I could feel the bump moving anytime I placed my hand on her stomach,” she says.

After hours of tears, sweat and blood, she heard the scream of a baby – a sound she says she has heard hundreds of times for some 70 years now.

Tupele is now 80. She inherited the skill of midwifery from her mother and has delivered most children in Mukurian Mukurian location, Laikipia North.

She says over the years, news of government providing free maternity and health care to pregnant women has been floating around, but most residents do not benefit due to the distance from their village to the nearest hospital in Doldol town.

“The only mode of transport we have here is motorcycle, and one ride can cost up to Sh1,500 to the main centre,” said Lidas Tompo, chairman of the nyumba kumi initiative in the area, reinforcing why some women in Laikipia North still use Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) despite the Government’s aggressive messages to go to hospital.

This reality is common in most villages in arid and semi-arid areas. The narrative of women suffering and dying in the hands of TBAs because they could not access a facility has been told ad nauseam.

“It is sad that in 2017, there are women who cannot access clinics despite devolution government taking over,” said Nduku Kilonzo Chief Executive Officer, National Aids Control Council.

Solutions

On Thursday, the Lancet Commission on the future of Africa published a report co- authored by more than 20 leaders in health across the continent that indicated even though child and maternal mortality continue to decline, most countries are still way below the required threshold.

“There is need for home-grown solutions, Africa still lurks behind, despite progress we have made over the years,” said Alex Ezeh, executive director, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and co –author of the report.

Even though strides have been made in building more hospitals and empowering community health workers, marginalised communities are often forgotten in drafting plans to stabilise health in the country.

Stakeholders are now raising alarm that unless measures are taken, infectious and chronic diseases will spread and go beyond marginalised communities; and the ripple effect will be felt countrywide.

Kilonzo said there has been progressive rise of new HIV infections, and if not checked, there will be resurgence of the pandemic, racing away with the hope of completely eliminating new infections and controlling the effects of HIV in the country.

“Last year, there were more than 70,000 new infections, with 43 per cent being people between 15 and 24,” said Nduku, stressing the need for every county to prevent mother to child infections; which can only be achieved through access to ante natal clinics.

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