Races Lost

Calla Lily - Series 2 - 01“Mami, have you seen the body the neighbors have been staring out since morning?” Shukri greeted me one afternoon in March. “People are saying he committed suicide, but others think he was killed.” I was tired. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. We had just gotten home after a shoot and several interviews, and I just wanted something to eat and a place to retire and worry about whether or not this article would be published, how I would manage food and rent and how to keep the landlord and his caretaker from calling me – without sinning. But I put on my sandals and went back out. I walked the about 100 meters to where a police truck was now parked, and several uniformed and un-uniformed officers were milling about. One of them, a lady greeted me, with a hug. I remembered her from a child’s right issue that had taken us to the Post recently. She, her colleague and I had accompanied the minor to hospital in the dead of the night, for first aid before we surrendered her to their care.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Ina kaa huyu muyu amejinyonga.” She said pointing towards the unfinished tinned accommodation a few feet from where I was. “Si ukuje uone kama ni mutu unajua?” She wanted me to go see if was someone I knew. Sleep had been difficult in coming so I declined her offer thankfully when her colleague asked if I had a bed-sheet I no longer needed in my house. They needed it to carry the body into the waiting car. I scooted as fast as my 100 kgs could carry me back to my house and came back about five minutes later. By this time, curious neighbors were gathering around the scene but the officers kept them away but insisted I go see the man. “You never know.” Said one.

He was unknown to me, and from the identity card found in his back pocket, just a few months older than my son. My heart broke as I looked at his peaceful, oddly frozen face, with a neat cut – presumably from a rope, across his adam’s apple. The brain is merciful, because I cannot remember much more, except that his body sounded embalmed as it hit the back of the police car. One other item was found on his person – a medical card indicating that he had just had his first doze of ARVs. I went home and prayed for those he loved, and those that loved him…and for those I love, and those that love me…that none would ever feel so alone that they would choose to end their lives. That there would always be someone that cared.

So today afternoon, Leroy rushes into my bedroom just as am about to get into prayer and bible study. Our neighbor needed us urgently. Either a thief or a snake. I again left the house wondering how I was going to be useful in either situation. But again, it seemed as though my feet had two brains of their own. I found my neighbor handling the issue of the snake – I didn’t even want to see it. She insisted I go check on the thief. He husband was already there, with one other man. I went hoping to convince them to take the alleged thief to the police post, as opposed to killing him in my other neighbors’ plot. The young man had stolen some metal building materials, some things that looked like old chimneys, and a set of nearly rusty sufurias. Ok, this was going to be serious since my neighbors had had their water piping materials stolen and another apparently a gate or something. I asked God again, what my role was there. I noticed that the men were uncomfortable talking to the young man in my presence and at one point my neighbor’s husband closed the gate between me and them and then descended on the young man with slaps. I called him out and talked to him calmly, about what would be the right thing to do. He went back in, and came out shortly after and went back to his plot, to deal with the snake issue.

Before he left, he had called the owner of the paraphernalia, and continued to interrogate the man loudly. Another man had joined them. He knew the young man, in fact, he described him as a hard working builder that he had hired from time to time. The young man changed his initial story that he had been hired to pick the wares up, to the truth, that he was hungry, that his house in the Soweto Slums had been locked and that he had not been able to find any work to do in the past week. He said he had never stolen before and loudly begged for mercy. My heart broke.

Then came the owner of the paraphernalia with a friend and a rock. I asked him not to kill the man. He ignored me and rushed in. He came up about three minutes later, sweating, and shared his frustration. He had been robbed too many times, he lost his gate, all his clothes from the line, he was tired and this guy would pay for it. Other men came to see what was going on, and the interesting thing is that they stood afar, not willing to get involved. They commented on the affair, “that is hunger, that is hunger.” They should not kill him, they should discipline him and then let him go. I prayed, God why are you allowing me here? I do not want to witness this man dying. I called the owner of the paraphernalia, he was my neighbor. I asked him to just check, the man may be innocent…to take him to the post and check out the story about someone else sending the man for this things. He said it was alright. He went in and then asked the man to carry the things he had stolen back into his compound. He had by this time, confiscated the man’s identity card. The man carried the things into the compound and then dashed out. He ran, he ran, he ran…he run into two women, and told them he was running from a mob that wanted to kill him. I don’t think anyone, not even the one who he had robbed was sad he got away. In fact they locked up and went back to their days as though nothing had happened.

I looked around at the men and women as they dispersed…I saw their pain, and their perspective of this particular situation. It spoke of things that united us all – the hunger, homelessness, the pain, the fatigue…the despair. We go through the motions of living, hoping that someone, God mainly, would decode the language of the stream of our unshed tears, and free us. If we could all run…run, run away…it would be understood. God was in that place. He is everywhere, but in this place…about 75 meters from where the body had been found a few weeks ago, God had come and dispensed His Justice.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

“Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you” 1 Samuel 12:23

Perfect Stains

IMG_20170515_142112.jpgI have sensed in my spirit God leading me to wear my yellow Buobou with the pink and blue flowers, that I had not worn in a long time, since I woke up this morning. As ironed it, I noticed that it had stains, that in that light and given that it was a faint coloured garment, looked like faded blood stains. I wondered at this, because I wash my cloths carefully after every wear. It was otherwise clean. I tossed it into the place where I keep laundry making a note to deal with the stains as soon as I was done ironing. I went to the suitcase where I keep my clothes to make a choice about another outfit but sensed The Spirit of God speaking to, and nudging me: “So what if it is stained? It is what I want you to wear today. Don’t you think I knew that it was stained before I commissioned it for this day? I considered all about it, including those stains and knew that your wearing it in obedience would make it beautiful in My Eyes.” I got it immediately: He was talking about more than the dress.

Vip, tell them, tell them that I have said – ‘So what if she is stained? I have commissioned her for My Highest Purposes. I have taken into consideration that she is stained and that her stains are unhidden before the eyes of heaven and the earth; that I will be the beauty that drapes Myself as a Mantle about her. But she must not focus on her stains to give up, but on me to raise her to the peak of greatness to which I have called her. As she rise, her stains are obvious to all, and My Mantle about her will be obvious to all too. For her glory is Mine, and I have given Mine to her. Rest – enter rest.’”

I am calmed, deeply so, as I write this. I can enter rest from my strivings, – beautified by the word of God. Shalom.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

John 15:3 “You are Already clean BECAUSE of the word I have spoken to you.
Revelations 19:11-16 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose Rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His Head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is DRESSED IN A ROBE DIPPED IN BLOOD, and His Name is THE WORD OF GOD. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding in fine linen, white and clean. Coming from His Mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His Robe and on His Thigh He has this Name written:
KING OF kings and LORD of lords

From Traditional Birth Attendant to Birth Companion – Jane Mukuyi’s Story

Jane Mukuyi4.JPG“My Grandmother was a ‘Mkunga wa Nyumbani’ in Chepkaka where I grew up,” begins the elegant 66 year old mother of four. “Of my many siblings I was closest to her. From the time I was 12 years old, I would assist her perform her vocation. She would send me for things while I watched her deliver women of their children. When I got married at the age of 21, and moved to a nearby location, I too, started practicing. My grandmother’s reputation had preceded me and they assumed rightly that I was likewise gifted and inclined.”

Jane was a nursery school teacher. She, however, gladly volunteered her services helping women through pregnancy and the delivery of their children. “When a woman, in the places where my husband and I lived, suspected that she was pregnant, she would seek me out for some sort of clinic. I would wake up at around 6am to find them waiting outside my house, most of them not having even washed their faces. They wanted me to touch their bellies and let them know the progress of their babies. They would come for me to massage them with oil, or just because they had woken up from an uncomfortable night. Many came in as many times as thrice a week during their pregnancies. In the latter parts, I would massage them to ensure the baby was presenting well. I have since learnt that this could mess things up for the baby and the mother.” She says sadly.

“When a woman went into labour, depending on our agreement and her condition, I would either go to her house or she would come to mine. In mine they would deliver in the kitchen. In theirs, it depended how many rooms they had. The idea was that men could not be part of the process. If there was only one house, they would make themselves scarce.” She remembers.

“If one of my women was due, I would prepare a herbal concoction to rub her down with during labour. The woman would get down her knees, legs apart. She was not supposed to have had a bath before labour. I would guide her to push down the baby. Twice there were complications that led to the babies coming out leg first, but thankfully I successfully managed all such cases without a single fatality. I never delivered a child that was in breach. In a normal situation, I would wait for the head of the baby to present, then using my thumb nail, cut her down there to allow the baby to come out. Once the baby was out, we would use one of the mother’s garments, normally a dirty one, to cover it. We would cut the cord using the bark of a sugar-cane. The woman had to stay indoors for three days. She would not bath. She would use an item of clothing that she had worn to get to the Mkunga’s house to catch her flow. It was all very dirty and unhygienic, and yet I knew no other way. Some of the children I helped birth are now married or even in university. I know of five that died before the age of three years.”

Nine years ago, Jane was one of the TBAs that the Ministry of Health reached out to, in response to a WHO policy, to train in emergency child birth and transform into Birth Companions. Until then, she had never met or known of any other TBA except her grandmother. “That is when I realised that we were conveyors of ill health and not of life as I had previously thought.”

abraham-wanyonyi1Behavior Change Communications Coordinator Abraham Wanyonyi of Save the Children elaborates on this. “More than 50% of unskilled deliveries are conducted by TBAs. They have gravely impacted on the Ministry of Health and their partners’, GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children – Kenya’s attempts to get women to deliver in hospitals under sanitized conditions. They can therefore not be ignored in our efforts. The National  Health Policy 2007 – 2012 provides that they stop providing deliveries and accompany expectant mothers to health facilities. This was just a statement, and there was nothing to support it in terms of making this a reality.” This is where the partners came in. They use the training curriculum adapted from AMREF’s Linda Afya Mama Na Mtoto to reorient them on their roles, give them a small reimbursement towards transport, and have monthly meetings with them.” He says.

“For many of them this is a calling. I remember that when HIV became widespread many TBAs in Western and Nyanza provinces were wiped out by it. You can imagine the hygiene issues, the infections, I mean many health facilities are still struggling with hygiene control. These challenges are more than doubled in a poor old woman’s house.” Abraham laments.

Jane is now an unrelenting firebrand with regard to getting women to attend clinic and deliver in health centers. From being the one sought out to offer clinics, she now accompanies those who do, and seeks out those who are resistant sometimes to the point of having interventions that involve the husband or the chief to get the women to go. “They are tough but I am tougher. I go with them for their initial clinic, then for the fourth of the five mandatory times, and then for delivery. I will ride with the woman on the bodaboda ambulance, and will only deliver if there is a roadside emergency. Otherwise, I go with her to the health center, and stand by her taking care of her needs throughout labour. I act as the link between her and the health facility staff on how far she has gone, and also alert them if I sense there is trouble. I will also accompany her back for post-natal clinic.”

Nurse Violet Nyongesa.JPG58 year old Nurse Violet Nyongesa, of the Bunyala Sub-County Hospital dons the Birth Companion Apron in solidarity with Jane for this interview. She describes the Birth Companion’s role throughout the maternity journey as crucial but thankless in terms of remuneration. “With all they do, we are not even able to offer them a cup of tea. They have really helped raise the number of women giving birth in health centers from 30 to about 100 in a month. We are normally understaffed, with about three nurses on duty at any on given time. When they come in with the mothers in labour, they stay with them. They get them water to shower, clean them after delivery and give them clean linen. They are also usually much better able to communicate with the women than we are. They are really part of the team.” She speaks softly. “I know it is better for a woman to deliver at a health center, despite the challenges we face, because of the sterile environment and because we are able to deal faster with any challenges during the process. The baby is also kept warm. When a child does not cry at birth, we are able to resuscitate them. It is also easier to register a child who has been born in a health center as opposed to at home.”

Jane now makes a living from her farm and also receives support from her four grown children of whom she is very proud. “The training that the partners have given us have earned us renewed respect within the community. The uniforms they have provided makes us stand out in a good way. We are also involved in Table Banking. I love that I am now helping give life the healthy way.” Concludes a smiling Jane.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Why Women Preferred Being Delivered by Traditional Birth Attendants, By Abraham Wanyonyi, Behavior Change Communications Coordinator and Communications Point Person in Save the Children Kenya, Bungoma Office

  • Facilities often understaffed and have little attention during labour whereas with a TBA it’s just the woman. She receives a lot of tender loving care, the backrubs and encouragement.
  • The language often used by the TBA is gentle as compared to that used by the overworked, little appreciated Health worker.
  • Men who find health facilities crowded have access to their wives during labour to support them.
  • Socialisation, everyone in your family has been delivered by a traditional birth attendants, its difficult for women to start a new trend especially at her in-laws.
  • The TBAs are part of the community. With Devolution in particular people may prefer to be attended to by someone from their own communities than a well-trained ‘outsider.’
  • Distance to the health centers make it preferable for women to walk into the TBAs house during labour.
  • People feel safer with older, and more experienced women.
  • Perceived high cost of delivery even in public hospitals whereas TBAs are compensated with what you have. A leso, a chicken etc.

Story and photos by NaMeD Afrika Studios, Kenya

First Published on The Standard Newspaper’s Wednesday Life Pullout, September 28, 2016

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2000217596/no-more-giving-birth-at-home-for-women-in-kenya

 

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