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Traditional Birth Attendants invade Chitipa District Hospital

Nyasa Times

June 16, 2017

By Ed-Grant Ndoza -Mana.

Defunct traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) have invaded Chitipa District Hospital to coax expectant women to procure herb concoction which induces quick deliveries.

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Safe Motherhood Coordinator, Nkhoma, holding a low birth weight baby in the nursery ward he initiated in 2015.

The secretive TBAs who seem determined to soldier on despite government disapproving their uncertified clinics and maternal services, target pregnant women at maternity wards, at night, or their illiterate mother-in-laws and guardians who cram at a make-shift guardian shelter and hospital corridors, to market their art, at a moderate fee, according to a source at the hospital.

The invasion by TBAs in health facilities, coupled by escalating home deliveries has seriously worried officials at the hospital who fear if the trend is not immediately checked, efforts to completely wipe out infant and maternal mortality will be a mere fallacy.

The Safe Motherhood Coordinator at Chitipa District Hospital, George Nkhoma has expressed his deep concern that some sections of the community were still giving a blind eye to home deliveries under the aid of traditional birth attendants, despite intensive awareness campaigns on the risks the practice dangle on the life of mothers and babies to be born.

Government banned operation of TBAs years ago, on arguments that the expectant women’s lives are at great risk in the hands of the group since they do not have a single capacity to manage serious maternal complications which may cause loss of life, such as excessive bleeding, rupturing of uterus, convulsion, retained placenta, baby mal-presentation, on top of increased chances of infections due to probable compromised hygiene and sanitation standards.

TBAs, who are plucking courage to follow their clients even to government health institutions to conduct deliveries, masquerade as guardians and are identified by small bags or used pieces of cloth, stuffed with roots and leaves of shrubs which are prepared into a concoction which fasten delivery process.

Home delivery trends, with the help of non medical personnel, also wield great potential to fuel the spread of AIDS pandemic in the community , as the new born babies and everyone who extends a hand to a birth giving task , will contract HIV, in the event that the mother is positive.

Nkhoma said TBAs who are tracking pregnant women who have chosen to deliver at a health facility are putting the lives of the women at risk since they are administering local pitocin, a concoction laced with multiple herbs, powerful enough to enhance quick delivery than the physiological delivery time.

Said Nkhoma, “It is surprising that TBAs are still trailing expectant mothers to health facilities. The danger is that they are using local pitocin, a powerful herbal concoction which forces the uterus to contract abnormally, to force the baby out, far earlier than the physiological delivery time.”

The Safe Mother Coordinator explained that most neonatal problems facing the hospital, like fresh still babies (babies who die within 48 hours after birth) and Asphyxiated babies (babies who can not cry to draw oxygen soon after birth) due to suffocation, following abnormal functioning of the uterus activated by herbal drugs.

The hospital’s maternal new born health quarterly report of January to March, 2017, indicate that the hospital registered 1292 deliveries and 1273 were live births.

In the period under review, 168 births were home deliveries, a number Nhoma said was alarming compared to the same period in 2016, when only 92 home deliveries was recorded.

In 2017 quarterly report, from 168 home deliveries, 34 Asphyxiated babies were recorded, out of which, four died and 13 fresh still births were recorded while two expectant women had their uterus ruptured on their way to the health facility , after failing to deliver at home.

Currently, Asphyxiated and low weight birth babies are admitted at a nursery ward, equipped with life saving machines like the crucial oxygen concentrator, a brain child of Nkhoma himself.

Meanwhile, Chiefs in Chitipa District are surprised too at the growing number of expectant women giving birth at home besides formulation of punitive measures against the risky habit.

During a meeting recently, held at Lwakwa School in the area of Chief Mwaulambia, conducted by White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), an NGO committed to promoting safe motherhood, Chief Mwaulambia said he and his subjects have agreed to ban home deliveries.

“We have come up with notorious village norms to punish families which encourage their expectant women to give birth at home,” said Mwaulambia.

In the area of Chief Mwaulambia, a family will pay a live goat for allowing their pregnant women to deliver at home, a penalty which forces families, especially those who can not afford even a chicken, to hurry their expectant women to health facilities.

However, women who deliver at home, rush to health facilities where they claim they have given birth on their way to a health facilities, in fear of the wrath from traditional leaders in their respective villages, a claim which is clashed by midwives, owing to their organization and smart looking.

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