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Experts Discourage Rainy Season Childbirth 

By Divine Jr. Ntaryike

An expert tasked with curbing maternal mortality in Cameroon has suggested that avoiding childbirth during the rainy season can substantially curtail the number of pregnancy-related deaths. 

Prof. Robinson Mbuh’s recommendation follows the observation that rainy season journey conditions across the country considerably scales up the number of women who die giving life.  “If you get pregnant in October, you actually deliver in the month of July, and that’s when the roads are very bad – July, August and September. And so we try to advise women not to become pregnant in the month of October, November and December,” he posited.

Cameroon’s road network covers some 50,000 km with only about 4,250 tarred. The rest comprises earth roads which quickly degrade during the rains. Bridges collapse, potholes deepen and travelers spend days moving from one village to another.

In such circumstances, it is commonplace to see pregnant women giving birth along roadsides and in the absence of skilled attendants. Others simply resort to traditional midwives who lack formal training. Despite sundry efforts by the Government and donors, the number of women [and babies] giving up the ghost during childbirth has continued to hit the roof.

Dr. William Tarkang of the Cameroon Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians says the maternal mortality ratio has attained startling levels due to unplanned seasonal childbirths.   “In 1998, the figures for maternal mortality stood at 430 deaths per hundred thousand livebirths.  From 2000, it went up to 669.  In the year 2010, the figure stood at 1000,” he underscored.

The vast majority of Cameroonians live below the poverty line. In rural areas, many pregnant women cannot afford prenatal echography and ultrasound technologies at far-flung health centres to detect flaws and help avoid complications. In fact, some cash-strapped husbands abandon their spouses in maternity labour rooms when they are informed a caesarian section –delivery through surgical incision – will have to be performed.

 Elsewhere, upfront payments before interventions are compulsory, illiteracy is rife and family planning is mostly snubbed.  Prof. Robert Leke of the Ministry of Health agrees that the situation has placed Cameroon off-track regarding the reduction of maternal deaths as stipulated in the Millennium Development Goals. 

“Those of us involved in the study of maternal mortality in Africa now believe that most countries will not meet the Millennium Goals. But what is important is for countries to place themselves on track to accelerate the reduction of maternal mortality and the reduction may never reach the 75 percent that is targeted in the 5th millennium goal,” he advised.  Prof. Mbuh says while waiting for more roads to be tarred, there is need for individuals and communities in rural areas, especially, to be directly involved. 

“In some communities, we’ve made it possible that there is someone who moves from house to house to force pregnant women to go to a health facility. If you don’t have a health facility where you live, our best advice is for you to relocate and go to a place which is nearer a health facility and stay there until you deliver. Most African countries are struggling to build some kind of dormitories within the hospital premises so that a woman who is very far from the hospital can come and stay there especially when she’s approaching labour,” he said.

He says religious leaders and traditional rulers are being included in the effort to avoid rainy seasonal childbirth. 

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