By Abibatu Kamara, a community reporter in Kono
On a field visit in Koidu 1, a community in Tankoro chiefdom, I came across a pregnant woman. Her name is Sundu and she had not been going to the hospital because she was afraid. Her community is approximately six miles to the closest health centre. Her appointment to be at the health centre was on a Tuesday, but she couldn’t make it on that day because of heavy rains.
The next day she was afraid due to the attitude of the nurses: “Nurses will shout and even abuse you in front of other patients” Sundu explained.
Sundu – like many other women in rural communities – face many challenges in seeking medical treatment. A few days after our conversation, I returned to the community to check on Sundu. I found her with a cute baby boy. I caught up with her whilst she was suckling her baby “Coffee Kour” and this was what she said.
I’m Sundu Conteh, when I was pregnant I use to go to the hospital, but stopped due to the heavy rains and the collapse of the wooden bridge linking my community with the health centre. After that long, I became afraid because the nurses at the health centre are not too nice to pregnant women that do not attend regular clinic and will abuse and insult you in front of other patients. At times they would not even attend to you. So I had to stay at home.
I started feeling pains late at night and I informed my neighbour to escort me to the next village where there is a Traditional birth attendant (TBA). I had to travel overnight but on the way, I could not bear the pains and I felt my bag burst.
I had to deliver under the coffee trees on the roadside. I was terribly afraid in the pitch dark of snakes, and even for my life. I had to commit myself to God and the neighbour who accompany me. Being strong was the only option available, I could not scream nor cry, but clenching very firm to the coffee trees. My neighbour had to break some beaches of the coffee tree with my bedding for me to lay down.
It was pitch dark, the night was young, you could not hear a soul just the wind and leaves. I only had faith that I could do it. I don’t remember the time, but I hear from afar fowl croaking. I guess it round 5am or 6am that was the time I delivered my child.
I’m alone without my husband for the past three months. He left for some job in another community. I had no money to buy food. It was just a few kilometres to the village of the traditional birth attendant, I had to walk very weak and tired with the help of my neighbour to the village.
People rejoiced and sympathised with me for going through that pain on the road. They too could not provide much, at times I had to eat busy yams boiled with palm oil and pepper for the days I spend there. I seek solace in the fact that I’m alive and my baby is fine. They decided to name my child “Coffee Kour” meaning in Kono “Under the coffee tree” where I delivered my baby.
If I had the opportunity to deliver at the hospital, they should have taken care of me and my baby for the few days I would spend there. But giving birth outside the hospital is very difficult for me. Nurses teach you how to care for the baby and help provide food for the child at the health centre.
Giving birth on the road was risky, if I had bleeding or other complications it would have been very difficult. Maybe I would have lost my life and child. Giving birth in the hospital would increase your chances of survival and better care. It’s very difficult to give birth outside the hospital because in the situation you lose water or blood, the hospital will be able to provide them for you.
My advice to my colleagues is that they should try to visit the health centres regularly. I’m lucky to be alive and be able to see and hold my child.
All glory to God and my neighbour, for me to see and hold my first born. I have learnt a lot of lessons and suffered a lot from conception to giving birth and now caring for my child.
My husband hasn’t returned yet. I’m doing it all alone and hope I will continue to provide for my child.