Tundun Munstira: Abuja IDPs Camp where women are at birth attendant’s mercy

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic may be easing but its impact on people, especially, less privileged women at Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) camp in the FCT. ENE OSHABA writes on the experience of women in Tundun Munstira Camp.

Maternal and child mortality is a major problem women face in Nigeria. Those in rural areas experience this more due to factors including: poverty, lack of information and infrastructure, cultural beliefs among others.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that poor women in remote areas are the least likely to receive adequate healthcare.

According to the report, “The latest available data suggest that in most high income and upper middle income countries, more than 90per cent of all births benefit from the presence of a trained midwife, doctor or nurse.”

This is the case with women in Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) Camp located Tudun Munstira in Karon-Majiji, an Abuja community along Airport Road.

These women who are mostly from Goza local government area of Borno state left their homes following several attacks by the Boko Haram terrorists on their community. Their lives have not remained the same ever since.

Scary delivery experience

One of the women Fatima Ali narrated to Blueprint Weekend how she lost her child during delivery, stating that she still feels the trauma till today.

Fatima said due to the lockdown order by the federal government to check the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) she had to give birth with the assistance of a local birth attendant as she didn’t have money to visit a health facility during the period of her pregnancy coupled with distance to the place and the ban on public transportation.

Recounting her experience she said: “I lost my child because no one is helping us. We came here because of Boko Haram. This place was bush and we didn’t know the land owner but we settled here. We don’t know our fate here but we are just living and hoping we are not chased out.”

Also, Khadijat Abubakar, a 27-year-old mother of five, said their major need was food and a healthcare centre.

She said the closest primary healthcare centre to them was not functional and the next closest hospital was in Kuchingoro, which is a bit far from Karamajiji where she resides.

“We don’t have a good primary health care centre here if my children or I are sick we can’t get even a small chemist around to buy medicine except we have to go as far as Kuchingoro.

“I gave birth at home because we didn’t have money to go to the hospital. This is because since the lockdown there are no menial jobs to do and my husband only started okada business so we can at least feed. It has been God helping us,” she said.

Speaking further Khadijat said, “If women are pregnant we don’t go for ante natal and when it is delivery time there is a local birth attendant in Angwan Gwuragu in this our neighbourhood that is where most of us go.

“The birth attendant uses hand gloves and gives drip and women give birth there. But I don’t know where she learnt her job.

“Her place is not safe. I don’t know the kind of medicine in the drip because my fifth child was my first experience with her and I went to her because it was during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

“When she gave me the drip my baby immediately began to turn and in few minutes I gave birth. Women who give birth successfully pay her N5,000 but if the baby dies she doesn’t collect the money.

“Women and children are dying at the local birth attendant place while giving birth and this is scary. So many women are scared but lack of money makes them to keep trying their luck. I was lucky to give birth successfully but I was also scared.”

Cost saving advantage of birth attendant

Responding to question on why they take the risk of patronising a local birth attendant Khadijat said, “The primary health centre collects N8,000 for delivery but when you go there they will give you a list of things to buy which will cost over N10,000 and we don’t have over N20,000 to pay that is why we go to Angwan Gwuragu.

“I only sell cap for a living and to finish making one takes about one month and I can’t sell that for more that N5,000 though one NGO came and taught us soap making and face mask making but that doesn’t bring much income too.

“During the lockdown we suffered hunger and starvation but since the ease of the lockdown things are getting a little better.

“We appeal to the government for intervention such as food, hospital with medicine and let our husbands have something doing so they can fend for the family.

“It’s been five years we ran to this community but life is getting difficult by the day, we were farmers in Maiduguri and had a lot to eat but today we have to buy everything,” she lamented.

Suffering in midst of plenty

For 32-year-old Ramatu Adamu, also from Goza in Borno state, the lack of easy access to a health facility is the least she expected living in Abuja, the nation’s capital where she believed there should be amenities.

After watching a PAGED Initiative documentary titled: Displaced, a short film about IDP’s during the coronavirus lockdown period, she couldn’t hide her taught as she compared IDP’s in Maiduguri to those in Abuja.

“In Borno, like I saw in the film, the IDP’s are well catered for, they had food and access to health facility but we are complaining of not having access to ambulance except for pregnant women in event of emergency situation.

“Here, we don’t have any hospital, let alone access to emergency facilities like ambulance. Yet we live in the same city where President Mohammed Buhari lives when people in Maiduguri have more access to health facility.”

I ran to Abuja because Boko Haram was killing people. I really want to go back home if government can help restore peace to my village because life here is very difficult,” she lamented.

Similarly, Khadijat, whose first child will soon turn nine years, was married off by her parents immediately she turned 18, said she had regrets not going to school and being properly educated.

The 27-year-old lamented that if she had been properly educated she would have had a better life and improved standard of living, adding that life has been so difficult for her family and her.

According to her, her parents married off early because they were poor and could not afford to train her in school.

“School is very important in every woman’s life because life is not easy right now. If I’m educated I will help my children better.  Look at me I’m just 27 years old and I have five children already because all our husbands want are children.

“My parents gave me out in marriage very early because they don’t have money to train me further in school. If our men too went to school they will live better lives but they didn’t,” she stated.

Surviving against odds

Khadijat, who reads, writes and speaks averagely good English, said she had taken it upon herself to teach children at the camp for a little fee of N50 per child just to ensure the children have an education, just as she expressed hope that their parents would be able to see them through school.

“Boko Haram doesn’t believe in education, they say it is Haram and girls are supposed to just get married but they speak the English language. I really want to go back to Goza because it’s not easy here but I hear Boko Haram is still killing people.

“My first child is nine while my baby is seven months but their Education gives me concern and that is why I teach them and so other parents encourage me to start lessons to teach their children to read and write and they pay N50 daily per child.

“I teach them English, maths, social studies, home economics, literature and other subjects, due to how they children were enjoying the learning the Chairman built us a small classroom and I hope to do better with the job,” she said.

Way forward

WHO has recommended that to improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at both health system and societal levels.

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