Health officials forced to build ‘special manyattas’ for childbirth

Health officials in Kajiado County have come up with a way of convincing Maasai women to give birth in hospitals by building traditional manyattas inside hospitals.

The initiative is geared towards changing a tradition within the community that sees expectant mothers exposed to maternal deaths and mortality of infants at childbirth.

Health officials say the building of traditional manyattas will minimise these instances of death at childbirth.

According to the health officials in Ngatataek area within the county, the percentage of women still preferring to give birth using the traditional means is estimated at around 49% of the expectant mothers within the community.

The expectant mothers from the community uphold a tradition that sees them prefer giving birth within the confines of traditional manyattas with the aid of cultural midwives.

The tradition also dictates that childbirth must be done in what they term a conducive environment.

This environment, according to residents of Ngatatek, Kajiado county, consists of privacy and an atmosphere that is not noisy.

“We as Maasai do not believe in giving birth where there are many people, because of the environment and the fact that during childbirth, one eposes their nakedness,” Sophia Nenkai, a resident from Ngatataek told CitizenTV.

Health officials also affirm this, with Janet Ochogo, a nurse at Ngatataek dispensary saying, “Many women feared coming to deliver in hospitals  due to privacy and some said that they preferred their manyattas where there is warmth.”

Health officials have however worked towards creating awareness on safer methods of delivering babies so as to prevent maternal deaths.

Sophia Nenkai, a mother of four, heeded the call of the health workers and delivered her fifth child, a baby daughter, at a special manyatta within Ngatataek dispensary on Jamhuri Day.

“I had to walk almost five kilometers, but now I am happy for having delivered this baby. I will name her Christine, but seeing as today is Jamhuri day, I may name her Christine Jamhuri,” she said.

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Story By Nancy Chepkoech
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