Maternal care failing African women

June 10, 2011

Posted by The KC team

The Alliance hosts a citizen journalism programme called Key Correspondents (KCs).

Writes Key Correspondent Patrick Mutish

Although maternal mortality seems to have reduced, recent evidence shows it still is a major problem in many developing countries especially in sub Sahara Africa.

According to Dr. John Ndumba, Director of the Reproductive and Child Health for African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), between 250,000 and 280,000 women die in this region during pregnancy and childbirth for lack of simple, affordable and accessible medical care.

This is a huge number of deaths in a region that the UN reports as having a population of more than 800 million, with a current growth rate of 2.3%.

Most of these deaths are easily preventable, as they are mainly caused by insufficient care during pregnancy and delivery. Mr Ndumba adds that, out of every ten deaths, one or two are the result of complications that could have been taken care of by emergency obstetric care services.

If nothing is done quickly the future generation in sub Sahara Africa could be doomed.

Thanks to our governments for the present stride made towards the achievement of better living standards for its citizens, but much more lies ahead. No one can relax.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Our mothers need to be saved from the danger of death and our little brothers and sisters given the right to life without any restrictions or ignorance.

The millennium development goals (MDGs) set global target to be achieved over the next three and half years (2015).

The intermarrying of MDG Four, which targets the reduction of the under-five child mortality rates by two-third; MDG Five, which aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters and create universal access to reproductive health, and MDG Six, which aims to combat and reverse HIV/AIDS and create access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, all need to be attained.

In Kenya, the strive to achieve these MDGs is in progress. But much more needs to be done by the government like the creation of more awareness in stakeholders, especially parents and traditional birth attendants. These are the primary targets of these MDGs.

More pressure needs to be applied to change the current situation facing our mothers and children. No life should be lost during delivery or parent to child transmission of HIV witnessed.

Naomi’s story

Naomi Ondeng, a 46-year-old mother of four from Keeroka district in western Kenya, lost her child during delivery.

Ondeng gave birth to all her four children with the help of a traditional birth attendant. She says she did not experienced any complications during her labours apart from her fifth.

“I developed severe labour pains during my fifth pregnancy when I neared to give birth. I under went seriously severe pain for two days but still my child didn’t come. Thus I was advised to visit our nearby clinic where on admission I was referred to a missionary hospital.”

After a close check up at the hospital, Ondeng was informed that her 4.5kg baby had died in the womb and an urgent operation had to be carried out to save her own life.

The operation was a success although post operation complications followed.

Ondeng experienced leg weakness and nerve injuries. To make things worse, she found she was no longer able to control her bladder; urine would flow out unpermitted and uncontrollably.

Ondeng describes herself as “regularly stinking” as she was always wetting her clothing. She tried carrying a regular change of clothes to see whether she could reduce the odour. But this did not succeed.

The improvised pads she used to trap the wetness could only work for few minutes and even her efforts of reaching the market place proved unfruitful. Ondeng was suffering with fistula, holes that are created between the vaginal wall and the bladder following childbirth.

Life gradually changed for the worse. Due to the belief that fistula is the result of promiscuity, no one in the community, not even Ondeng’s children and family members, wanted to be associated with her. Many stopped calling her Naomi, calling her prostitute (Malaya) or worse instead.

Ondeng says she was scared she would die of the disease and leave a legacy of shame behind. Things only improved when the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) came to her rescue.

AMREF took Ondeng to Kisii District Hospital where she underwent an operation. Now life is back to normal and she thanks her creator for rescuing her life from the verge of death.

She has sworn never to let her two daughters give birth at home with the help of the untrained traditional birth attendants and go through what she experienced but to take them to the clinic for professional check ups.

She says: “I am now able to dress well and my life is back to normal but I am careful not to let my daughters undergo the same as I did. Even when my first daughter is near to give birth, I took her to the clinic where she was helped to give birth without any complications.”

Way forward

Ondeng’s story acts as an eye opener for all health stakeholders to put in more efforts to give women, children and infants the right to proper health and life under the Bill of Rights, part of Kenya’s new constitution.

Also in the Bill of Rights, there is the right to access information. This is crucial if people are to learn more about their health and the way to take care of it. The government should create all mechanisms possible for its citizen to access the right information to help curb the devastating rates of maternal and child mortality.

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