“The Baby Came with its Legs, It was proof the mother was a witch:” Traditional Birth Attendants tell it all!

Nakinti
Posted May 21, 2017 from Cameroon
Training 8 Traditional Birth Attendants in Toko village

Last week, on May 14th 2017, my organization, Rescue Women – Cameroon (REWOCAM) set out to train Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in proper delivery techniques, identification of danger signs, and referral systems in a rural community called Toko, in South West Cameroon.

Going to Toko from Bamenda usually takes us two days of travel. But going there usually fills our hearts with joy because we know for sure that we are empowering women and girls who are locked up from mainstream development. Toko is a sub-division with 49 villages under it. There is no kilometer of tarred road; going to some of the villages requires trekking long hours of up to 34 hours (to and fro). There is no Cameroon TV or radio signal; most people capture signals from neighboring Nigeria. There is no telephone signal, talk-less of an internet access. There is no electricity, no proper water management system.

Training eight (8) traditional birth attendants from 8 distant villages from Toko brought together 8 women whose naïve experiences on maternal health issues needed to be upgraded. They came with different interesting, yet sad stories of how they view deliveries and the realities on the ground of their practice. Tears rolled and anxiety climaxed as we listened to them. The medical doctor and chief nurse of the Toko Integrated Health Center who facilitated the training could not wait to change the women’s mindsets and equip them with proper skills and beliefs as they listened to them talk.

It should be noted, that every day, 20 Cameroonian women die of pregnancy-related causes, according to a 2014 press release from UNFPA Cameroon, the national office of the U.N. population fund. Using 1990 as a baseline, the fifth MDG goal called on all U.N. member countries to reduce their maternal mortality rates by 75 percent by 2015. Other countries made strides toward achieving that goal. Equatorial Guinea, to Cameroon’s south, met its goal by 2010. Worldwide, maternal mortality rates came down by about 45 percent between 1990 and 2013, according a 2014 report produced jointly by the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations. However, Cameroon only brought its maternal mortality rate down from an estimated 720 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to an estimated 590 per 100,000 live births in 2013 – a decrease of just 18 percent. And while some Cameroonian women face a much a lower mortality rate – 350 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, depending on their risk factors – some women face a maternal mortality rate of 1,000 per 100,000 live births. That’s higher than sub-Saharan Africa’s overall range of 380 to 730 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

The situation in rural communities like villages in Toko sub division is worse, as TBAs are practicing based on aged old traditional practices and beliefs. Holding strong to these beliefs puts the lives of pregnant women and their babies at risk on a daily basis. Talking to the 8 TBAs, they revealed sad realities about their practices. They said:

  • Immediately they deliver a baby, they bathe the baby with cold water from the streams, cold enough to make the baby adapt to his/her new world.
  • They deliver women with their bare hands. Using protective gloves has never been an option because they don’t even know about it.
  • They cut babies cords with kitchen knives or old blades depending on which one is available.
  • They beat women who are experiencing difficult deliveries because they believe the beating will force them to push out their babies quickly.
  • They equally beat women whose babies come out in strange ways like with legs, buttocks, shoulders, because they believe such women are witches and so must be beaten to force them not to kill their babies
  • They use little canes/sticks to beat babies who come out without crying to make them feel pain and cry
  • They equally warm new borns who don’t cry on fire to force them to cry
  • They use very hot water to force-heal the wounds of tear during delivery; there is usually no stitching whatsoever.
  • They tie the belly of the mother very tight with a loin cloth to force her tommy to go back in after delivery

The TBAs revealed a lot of things that sent shock waves to all of us sitting in the workshop hall, but there was no call for panic, as the objective of the workshop was to change their mindsets and equip them with skills. Without waste of time, the medical doctor drilled them on so many issues including

  • Hand washing technique before delivery
  • Gloves wearing to prevent disease transmission
  • Identification of danger signs
  • Importance of referral
  • Importance of attending ANC
  • Importance of hospital births
  • And more

The TBAs, left the training satisfied. They confessed that they had learned a lot of things they didn’t know were harmful to mothers, children and themselves as TBAs. They promised to practice in a more modern way and throw away stereotypes that put the lives of mothers and newborns at risk.

Rescue Women – Cameroon is determined to help cut down the figures on maternal deaths in Cameroon which is on constantly the rise.

How to Get Involved

Help us reach all the 49 villages in Toko Sub Division of Cameroon

Comments 10

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bridggyella
May 22, 2017
May 22, 2017

Dear Nakinti,

Thank you for sharing this inspiring ans informative write up.

Keep up the good work and i look forward to reading more from you.

Cheers!

Bridggyella

Nakinti
Jun 08, 2017
Jun 08, 2017

Dear bridggyella,

Thank you, too, so much for reading my post. I will keep everyone updated on the progress of all my work.

Love

Nakinti

Jensine Larsen
Jun 03, 2017
Jun 03, 2017

I learned so much from this piece - amazing at the work you are doing.  Imagine the lives that will be changed from the ripple effects of this day.  

Nakinti
Jun 08, 2017
Jun 08, 2017

Dear Jensine,

I am sure this training is going to save the lives of mothers and children in that area. They have suffered a lot from inexperience, and no one ever tried to educate them on best practices. We are praying for more and more success.

Love

Nakinti

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Jun 04, 2017
Jun 04, 2017

Hi Nakinti. I love this!!!! Training these TBAs is a brilliant idea. Maternal and child care needs serious attention.

I like the views expressed by the TBAs though funny it is a true picture of the situation. Up North the child gets a bath immediately with very hot water probably as I have just learned due to the very hot temperature.

Continue to do your own quota to rescue women in rural areas. Please keep us posted

Nakinti
Jun 08, 2017
Jun 08, 2017

Dear Masalien,

The TBAs were very open. They were eager to learn so they told every bit of their practice and experience. We were shocked, but then we were happy that they could open up. We are hoping to create more impact as the training goes round to other villages in the sub division in the years ahead.

Thank you, dear Masalien.

Love

Nakinti

iyamail
Jun 05, 2017
Jun 05, 2017

Great article about good work you are doing. Toko is the home of many of my cousins. The rate of young girls getting pregnant there is very high. Keep targeting those areas in need. Keep the fire burning!

Nakinti
Jun 08, 2017
Jun 08, 2017

Hello Iyamail,

Your name could tell me you have some roots in that area, if not all. Teenage pregnancy, incest, and rape is the order of the day in that area. They keep telling me to teach the children about incest because they are getting pregnant for their cousins and uncles on a regular basis. Really sad.

Thank you iyamail for your kind words.

Love

Nakinti

libudsuroy
Jun 07, 2017
Jun 07, 2017

From educating girls to empowering traditional birth attendants! You rock, Nakinti! I hope that like your previous undertakings, this one will be successful, and its achievements will mean more and healthier children will populate Cameroon.Congratulations on this detailed documentation!

Nakinti
Jun 08, 2017
Jun 08, 2017

Dear Libudsuroy,

Thank you so much. Your comment made my day. I am confident this wone is going to be as successful as any other project. Maternal and neo-natal mortality is going to drop. I am personally excited that we made this happen.

Thank you Libudsuroy for the encouragement.

Love

Nakinti

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