17 Jul 2013 09:40
OPUWO, 17 JUL (NAMPA) ? The Ministry of Health and Social Services says it is concerned about the fact that more than half of all pregnant women in the Opuwo health district make use of community birth attendants to deliver their babies at home.
The Director of Health for the Kunene Region, Thomas Shapumba said this whilst speaking at the Kunene Regional Delivery Unit (RDU) meeting with traditional leaders as well as regional and local authority councillors here on Tuesday.
?During the period of 2011/2012, 2 177 pregnant women attended antenatal care at 13 different clinics and two health centres of the Ministry of Health and Social Services in the Opuwo health district. Out of the 2177, only 1 053 gave birth at a hospital,? said Shapumba.
During 2012/2013, 2 037 pregnant women visited the health facilities for antenatal care, but only 959 were recorded to have delivered their babies at a hospital or health centre.
According to Shapumba, some of the challenges which might lead to women?s decisions to give birth at home are the long distances from villages to the hospital; the fact that most families here believe women should deliver their babies at home, where their mothers can take care of them; and also the fact that traditional or community birth attendants and traditional healers are very influential in the communities.
The director, however, did not rule out allegations and perceptions which local communities have about poor services associated with State hospitals, and especially the Opuwo District Hospital, where there have allegedly been cases in which expectant mothers were not treated well.
?The poor services and mistreatment at State health facilities are exceptional cases which unfortunately involved some patients, but that does not mean that the hospital delivers poor services or mistreats patients,? Shapumba noted.
The RDU meeting was held in order to sensitise the different leaders in the region to start advocating for women to deliver their babies in hospitals, and to encourage them to attend antenatal care programmes, as well as to continue attending regular hospital visits for check-ups for both themselves and their babies.
Speaking during the meeting, the chairperson of the Kunene Regional Council Dudu Murorua said it will be difficult to convince pregnant women and their families to not make use of community birth attendants since Government had issued them (birth attendants) with certificates, which allows them to operate.
?The community trusts these people, and they also have certificates from the Ministry of Health, which certifies them as having been trained to render such services,? he stressed.
Murorua added that it would be a good idea if Government stops issuing these certificates to traditional or community birth attendants, and instead encourages women to visit hospitals.
He then compared community birth attendants to bush mechanics or garages under trees, saying Government is risking people?s lives by allowing pregnant women to be attended to by these community attendants.
?In government, we do not allow cars to be serviced or repaired by mechanics under trees, or bush mechanics, as they are referred to. Why allow pregnant women to be treated by unqualified people, despite the vast experience, which we do not allow on Government vehicles,? he wanted to know.
Shapumba responded that the certification of community or traditional birth attendants was a policy issue, and could not be done away with overnight.