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'It is easier for us to give birth at home'

In Turkana, a majority of women are opposed to C-section and shun hospitals for fear of being subjected to the operation. Instead, they prefer traditional birth attendants.

Jacinta Atiir’s compound in Chok Chok village, Turkana Central is full of infants and expectant mothers.

The women quietly wait for their turn to see their ‘doctor’, Atiir, an untrained traditional birth attendant. One by one, they are ushered into a manyatta by Atiir, who is clad in traditional regalia.

Pauline Ngipeyok, 25, arrives in the compound, visibly in pain. She has walked for seven kilometres from her home in Nangomo to Chok Chok to see Atiir.

She is immediately taken into the manyatta. Atiir applies sheep oil on her hands and massages Ngipeyok’s belly as she lies flat on the mat. After two hours of massage, baby Nasepon is born. Atiir slowly cuts the umbilical cord using an unsterilised knife.

Ngipeyok says she does not see any problem of visiting the manyatta, adding it is easier to give birth at home. “I like giving birth here because it is closer home. I will just stay here for a few more hours then head home. If I went to the hospital in Lodwar, which is 30 kilometres away, I would not have come home early because you cannot easily find vehicles to bring you back home,” she says.


She notes this is her forth pregnancy and that she has always sought Atiir’s services, adding she has never undergone a C-section.

Elsewhere in West Pokot County, majority of women are opposed to Caesarian delivery.

“Many women who come to the hospital and are advised to undergo C-section refuse and it is not easy to convince them. Doctors take a lot of time explaining to them why they have to undergo the operation,” says Medical Superintendent Kapenguria County Hospital Abraham Limo.

Abraham says most women prefer to go to traditional birth attendants as health facilities are located far away from their homes. Illiteracy is also a factor that pushed women to the traditional birth attendants.

Many women don’t attend postnatal and antenatal car

Men in the county also don’t trust C-section because they believe when a woman undergoes the operation, chances of her losing her life are much higher than chances of survival. Doctors usually have a hard time convincing men to sign the operation sheet on behalf of the wife before the C-section is done.

However figures at Kapenguria County Hospital show three Caesarian delivery cases are conducted per day and on a monthly basis, 80 to 100 cases. Limo says the highest number of C-section cases is usually recorded between July to September because during the December holidays, many young women get pregnant.

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