KIHARA: We must liberate the African Child from harmful practises

An undated handout picture made available by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 05 February 2016 ...
An undated handout picture made available by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 05 February 2016 shows Boko Mohammed, a former excisor, a practitioner who performs female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), holding the tool she used to perform the procedure at a community meeting in Kabele Village, in Amibara District, Afar Region, Ethiopia. Photo/EPA

By Dr Anne Beatrice Kihara

The drum beats pick to a crescendo, the ululations of joyous women resonate in the air with the sudden outburst of the cry of yet another newborn. The African child! The men sitting in a distance tensely silent awaiting the outcome of the delivery with the news that declares the birth and sex of the child triggering chatting and drinking and welcome relief childbirth has gone well for mother and baby.

As a Reproductive Health Specialist, this provides an affirmation of a successful pregnancy outcome but I still ponder as I place the newborn to the mothers bosom what will this child’s ultimate fate be in life?  Will it be snapped up by the lack of basic needs or diseases?  Or will the child be able to survive to exude full potential and productivity within Society?  I deliberate on  issues that affect the African child which  include access to food , shelter, safe water and sanitation,  spread of communicable diseases such as HIV, malaria and  tuberculosis; diarrhea disease, pneumonia, malnutrition, prematurity and birth related complications. We cannot ignore the vulnerable child being orphaned due to the ravages of HIV in the mother or those afflicted by the same.

Saddening  as it may seem  child labor, human trafficking , commercial sex work,  gender based violence,  their engagement in wars,  conflicts and  terrorism  still enticing  many children  oblivious to the shattering of their innocent minds  or their imperative rights as children.  Harmful practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) still going unabated in the 21st Century.  With the girl child, dowry will be paid in hand for child marriage, early child bearing plucks denies her the right to education, increases her vulnerability into polygamous wedlock, surmounted risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and cervical cancer, Coupled with poor menstrual hygiene practices .

The “modern” African child has upbringing with  promotion of  rural to urban migration, brain drain  and increasing  emigration;  being  raised in “concrete high rises” and no longer  answerable to  counsel  from family members  or the community.  This is further aggravated by the role of uncensored media and their access to technologies that corrode minds; the ravages of fast foods and lifestyle changes increasing their gullibility for non- communicable diseases, all too soon.   Discrimination based on gender abounds affecting inheritance to property, socio- economic independence and decision making.

Safe motherhood…we silently send prayers to suffer the perils related to unsafe abortion, Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) or Rectovaginal fistulae (RVF) or the morbidity from causes related to bleeding, premature delivery, post-delivery infections and hypertensive disease of pregnancy. The excruciating pain of loss of mothers and babies, scars homesteads and the African continent and unfortunately still a grim reality.

Where are the solutions that can positively transform this scenario?

The  answers herein lies in concerted effort by government, donors, non – governments  actors and communities addressing  legislature, political goodwill, education and vocational training opportunities , gainful employment, parenting , mentorship, role modeling  and empowerment particularly of the girl child.

“A comprehensive approach is needed to do away with Female Genital Mutilation  and child marriage. To begin with, governments have to show intolerance and put punitive measures to hold violators accountable. It is also their obligation to launch massive educational campaigns that bring transformation in all communities to end these practices. Key also is empowering girls to reject it and run for help; and when they do so support should be provided urgently including shelter and care. If we can collectively work together to do these, our success will be imminent. At Equality Now we are addressing FGM and child marriage. These harmful practices that befall girls at a tender age have long lasting negative impact. A violation of human rights is committed on innocent children,” Faiza Jama Mohamed, Equality Now Africa Director .

There is need to have a supportive health system with lifesaving medical products and technologies integral to the process of health care delivery in the lifespan of every child.  We cannot watch these situations persist but take up a pro- active stand embracing the rights for the African child.   Research weaves the knot on lessons and challenges; priorities and charts the way forward in practice and policies.  Friends of the African child your conscience has been pricked to make a difference and secure better outcomes for future generations gearing towards nation and continental development.  As we draw attention  to the lives of African Children On the day of the African child 2016, I implore all, do something!

Dr Kihara is the Chair Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society

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