UGANDA: Sabini Women Shun Hospitals

Ms Rose Chemangei is a 41 year-old-mother with eight children. On June 11, she walked 15km from Kwosi village to Kaproron Sub-county headquarters in Kapchorwa District to attend a sensitisation meeting on reproductive health.

Among the issues discussed were the benefits of child spacing, the current health situation in the country including reproductive health issues within the community and how these can be addressed. Women were encouraged to seek maternity services at health facilities.

Although this kind of information, Ms Chemangei admits is crucial, she is more concerned about the attitude of health workers towards pregnant women who go to deliver in the health centres.

"We hear that when you are circumcised, the nurses and midwives will not attend to you and they will chase you away," she said.

This, Ms Chemangei said explains why she gave birth to all her eight children from home-only with the help of a traditional birth attendant.

She said because she was circumcised, she feared to be humiliated by health workers. Ms Chemangei says she was circumcised in 1983 when she was 16 .

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has long been practiced among the Sabiny tribe of Kapchorwa in eastern Uganda.

The United Nations Population Fund has widely condemned the practice. UNFPA says FGM violates the rights of women and girls and exposes them to health- related problems.

"The traditional birth attendants know how to take care of pregnancies up to the time of delivery and they are not rude to us," Ms Chemangei said.

But a nurse at Kapronon health centre IV who preferred anonymity blamed mothers for the low deliveries in hospitals.

"The services are there but the women do not want to come for them. Even antenatal services are available but we have to convince them very hard to come for them,' she said.

Indeed records at the e district health services office indicate a low turn out for maternity and other related services.

According to the District Health Officer, Dr Rogers Masaba, health indicators in the district are lower than the national average.

"It's a concern for all of us and because of the practice of female circumcision, young girls are getting married early and this explains the high number of teenage pregnancies in the district," Dr Masaba said.

The fertility rate in the district for example is 7.4 per cent, way above the national average of 6.7 per cent. Yet with this high fertility rate is the higher maternal mortality rate which stands at an alarming 600 deaths per every 100,000 live births.

The national average maternal mortality rate is 435 deaths per every 100,000 live births.

"Can every family manage to keep all these number of children and send them to school? Yet having a big number of children comes with birth related deaths," Dr Masaba said.

Deliveries at health facilities are also poor, with 13.3 per cent of women compared to the national average of 38 per cent giving birth under the watch of a professional health worker.

At Tegeres Health Centre III for example, statistics on women delivering at the health centre between January and May are alarmingly low. While in January no woman came to deliver in the health facility, in February and March only two deliveries each were registered while in April seven women came to deliver at the health centre. In May, only five deliveries were registered.

With such poor health indicators, Dr Masaba said a lot of sensitisation is needed to encourage men and women to access health related services. "The situation remains bad and we are thinking of a way to avert it," Dr Masaba said.


AUTHOR: Evelyn Lirri

URL: Click here

DATE: 22/06/2008

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