Expectant Moms' Home Away From Home At Oniipa

29 Aug 2016 13:20pm
By Isabel Bento and Lydia Pitiri

ONIIPA, 29 AUG (NAMPA) - Getting a good night’s sleep in the last few weeks of pregnancy is hard even when sleeping on a comfortable bed.
Finding the right position to sleep in is near impossible and paired with frequent toilet visits, life of a pregnant woman is certainly not easy.
Now imagine spending the last few weeks of your pregnancy sleeping on just a couple of blankets or cardboard as ‘mattress’ on the floor.
This is the harsh reality for nearly 60 women staying in a dilapidated building and tents at Oniipa, near the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital.
Their beds are lined up and belongings packed neatly in the building that belongs to a local businessman, only known as Tate Pau.
The women pay N.dollars 23 for the time they spend in this makeshift maternity waiting home along the Oniipa-Oshigambo road.
They came from far to be near the hospital when the day arrives for them to deliver their babies.
Rachel Newaya, who is eight months pregnant, is from the Onhadi village some 50 kilometres away.
“Because we are not sure about when we will go into labour or if we’ll get transport when the time comes, we come here so we can be near the hospital,” the 21-year-old Newaya told Nampa recently.
Although they appreciate having somewhere to stay, things could be better.
In the crowded building, the ventilation is not good, which makes the hot nights even harder to bear. There is also no electricity, running water or proper bathrooms.
Each woman receives 15 litres of water twice per week from the owner and they make use of an open area when nature calls.
Those who cannot secure a space in the building, sleep in tents.
These obstacles and the lack of privacy and space, however, seem to make the bond between the women stronger as they are very supportive of each other and share everything they can, including toiletries.
They also keep themselves busy by weaving traditional baskets.
Despite the close proximity of the hospital, there have been times when it was still too far for a woman in labour to get there on time. One pregnant woman narrates how she had to assist with the delivery of a baby outside the hospital.
“One of my friends who was also pregnant started getting contractions so I accompanied her to the hospital, but we did not make it and she just gave birth outside the hospital,” she said.
Still, they would rather be here, living under less than ideal circumstances, where health care is within reach for both themselves and their unborn babies.
World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics indicate that the mortality rate in Namibia in 2015 was 265 deaths per 100 000 live births, while the infant mortality rate was 33 deaths per 100 000 live births.
Tate Pau told this news agency he felt the need to assist the women who are heavily pregnant and would otherwise have nowhere else to go.
A few other women, like Ndinelao Haufiku from Onyuulae village some 60km from the hospital, stay there so they can tend to sick relatives admitted to the hospital.
“The cost of travelling back and forth is just too expensive for me, that is why I am accommodated here where I can check up on my relative,” she said.
Approached for comment on Thursday, Minister of Health and Social Services Bernard Haufiku said the ministry faces a shortage of medical infrastructure and although they are dealing with these problems, they are doing so in stages, with dialysis treatment their main priority for now.
“Our preoccupation, for now, is to make sure we have dialysis (machines) as we have patients dying because they cannot get treatment if they have kidney failure,” he said.
Haufiku, however, noted that proper shelter for expectant mothers is an issue and they are working on it.
“Towns like Outapi, Engela and Eenhana have been provided with maternity (waiting) shelters and currently, they are constructing facilities in Katima Mulilo and Opuwo,” he said.
The minister said there is confusion about who should be responsible for such facilities – the health ministry or regional authority.
He made reference to the facilities at Outapi which have been completed but are not yet in use.
“The local authority and the regional health directorate there seem to not be able to find common ground, so I have given instructions to determine who must come into that shelter so that we take full responsibility for the selection,” Haufiku said.
He, however, stated that it is the responsibility of the local authority to make sure the essential services, such as water and electricity are in place.
A similar system is in place in Eenhana and has been working well for the hospital there.
Haufiku added that the situation at Oniipa is due to the lack of coordination between the ministry and local authority.
“The real reason is that we do not have strong local leadership to take up these issues. You don’t really need a minister to sort out these maternity issues; I just need to give a directive,” he said.
Haufiku further added that maternity waiting homes built by the ministry in a number of regions provide rural women with a clean and safe place to stay.
Also situated near hospitals, these homes have dormitories with communal kitchens, dining halls, bathrooms and meeting areas.
Hopefully the ‘confusion’ would soon be sorted out so that Newaya and others find some peace and comfort in the last days of their pregnancies.