Finally, Succour for Latawa Women and Children

29 Oct 2012

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Traditional birth attendants in Latawa, a community in Sagamu, Ogun State received a group of volunteers from Brown Button Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, who trained them on safe practices in healthcare provision and child delivery.  Yinka Olatunbosun writes

For years, a two-room facility was all Latawa, a rural community in Ogun State had as evidence of healthcare centre. Their Women journey kilometers to arrive there too. It is in a distant far from the community centre. The ‘healthcare centre’ is managed by untrained traditional birth attendants(TBAs), even the few health workers in the community had over the years relied on the TBAs for the delivery of their own children in the past.

A community faced with the challenges of modern healthcare facility, modern equipment and medical personnel, the Latawa dwellers have lost many of their children to maternal deaths. The frequent death of women and children in Latawa thus attracted the Brown Button Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, with to save the children and community empowerment. After it discovered Latawa,  BBF is on a mission to rescue her women and children.

The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BFF, Ms. Adepeju Mabadeje led the rescue mission to save Latawa women and her children.

She said, “Several children die every year in Nigeria and the situation is alarming. More than 36,000 women die yearly in Nigeria and recently, based on the new partnership with the Maternal and Health Care Reform 2007, we can see that Nigeria is clearly off-track in meeting up with the poor. Every working woman of the 69million women in Nigeria are potential victims of maternal and child deaths.

“We chose Latawa in Sagamu for good reasons. When we came to Sagamu, we looked around and noticed a community, Latawa. It has a total of more than 15 traditional birth attendants.

“The community hospital had no delivery facility. When we visited it, we noticed that it had just a room and a parlour. We became their voice. We talked to the legislator representing the community at Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Yinka Mafe who represents Sagamu Constituency 1, to support the community with modern health facility and he agreed to expand the place by building a maternity centre for Latawa Community,”

The donation of the health centre by Hon. Mafe notwithstanding brought joy to the heart of a rural dwellers once forgotten, but Mabadeje said, training of the TBAs was an urgent mission her organisation had to undertake.

Last Saturday, at the Community Town Hall, traditional birth attendants sat with the curiousity of people seeking new knowledge in a training session organised by the Brown Button Foundation to inspire them to safe medical practice.

A medical doctor at the training session, Dr. Oluwafemi Alao reeled out to the traditional birth attendants the etiquettes of a good healthcare provider, while stressing the role of the participants in community healthcare provision.

“Your role in this community is important and as such must be undertaking with care and cautions because lives are involved,” he stated.

Mabadeje explained why they undertake the training session. She said, “We had to come back to Sagamu to train these traditional birth attendants to work in sync with the new health centre that will be opened with the help of the legislator.

There have been cases of exploitation by the TBAs, but on the whole, the insufficient healthcare facilities and trained practitioners have shown that TBAs are a very essential part of the community as it presently stands. This realisation is what makes us embark on training them to refer and recognise cases they should accept or reject.

I believe that this programme will help train more women and children with the provision of more health care opportunities”, she said.

Mabadeje, who is a legal practitioner, said that BFF is made up of volunteers drawn from different careers for the same ultimate purpose of saving lives. The medical personnel at the event, she explained, were volunteers from the community and beyond.

She said, “We have doctors in the community and some of the members of our foundation who have decided to come out and join this initiative to make sure that the health and well-being of the people of this community is taken care of for the sole purpose of reducing death rates during childbirth.

“We have been to communities like Zamfara, Sokoto and many more. We have noticed that it is in the core northern part of the country that more deaths are occurring. We had to focus on a particular place at a given time because of the size of our team.

“Usually, we seek for volunteers wherever we go but we also travel with volunteers to different places. We also ensure that we carry out an evaluation of whatever work that was done in order to measure the impact it had on each community that we visit.”

According to Mabadeje, the most important thing to address for the government is to improve the facilities at health centres in rural communities and build more health centres in these areas. She She claimed that instances abound where women have lost their lives due to the inability to travel miles to reach medical facilities for delivery or even to purchase drugs to sustain live.

“There was a particular case where the lack of electricity and oxygen caused the death of a woman whose labour was prolonged. In most cases, no one is blamed for the death but destiny,” She said.

The TBA’s who attended the training were upbeat about the future of their practice. They said, “For years we have sought this kind of opportunity and never got it. This program has answered a lot of our questions. It has also provided for us access to medical doctors who will not judge us and can take care of our prompt referrals. We have learnt a lot and we are grateful.”

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