The lack of a female worker in the only Primary Health Care, PHC, facility at Rahama-Wali community in Makarfi Local Government of Kaduna State is impeding access to ante-natal services in the area.
A News Agency of Nigeria investigation revealed that the PHC facility, an MDGs-assisted project, which serves the 3,000 members of the community, has only one staff – a male – who can hardly attend to pregnant women.
Some of the women, who spoke in separate interviews with NAN on Monday, lamented the absence of a female health worker at the medical facility, and explained that their religion does not allow a male to attend to women.
The women said that they were always forced to travel to Makarfi town, which is 10 km away from the community, to access health services with female health workers attending to them.
“That is the only option we have, instead of exposing our nakedness to a male health worker,” Nasiba Suleiman, a mother of two, told NAN.
The women lamented the poor state of the only facility in their community, and decried the life threatening incidences involving expectant mothers and children.
They appealed to the Kaduna State Government to deploy female health workers to the community to help improve access to basic health services.
“We want the government to assist us by deploying female health workers to our community to help pregnant women. Our lives are always at risk because when labour begins in the night, there will be no where to run to.
“Very often, we are left in the hands of traditional birth attendants. The other option is to rush to Makarfi which is 10 km away. If the situation is urgent or if one cannot afford the cost of traveling to Makarfi, anything can happen,” Suleiman added.
Suleiman, however, said that she had always opted to give birth at home with the assistance of a traditional birth attendant who is a female “instead of exposing my body to a man that is not my husband”.
Another woman, Zaitun Ibrahim, told NAN that traveling long distances was usually very difficult for women in labour.
“During emergencies, we have to invite traditional birth attendants to assist since there is no health worker in the community.
“We keep thanking God that very few cases of deaths are recorded during child birth,” she said.
Hajia Aishatu Aliyu, a traditional birth attendant, told NAN that she started working without any experience.
“I took up the job out of goodwill. I wanted to save lives. I have never been trained by government. I only use the wisdom and knowledge God gave me and I thank God that the women I have handled have always delivered safely,” she said.
Also speaking, a volunteer worker at the PHC, Sharibu Abubakar, said that the health centre was not equipped and had “many challenges”.
“The PHC lacks drugs and other facilities. In most cases, it is the volunteers that contribute money to buy drugs so as to persuade patients to patronise the facility.
“We have also tried to bring a female health worker from Kaduna to encourage the women to seek antenatal services,” he said.
Abdullahi Aliyu, the Secretary of Rahama-Wali community, who lamented the absence of health workers in the facility, said that the situation was usually scary when labour starts at night.
“If labour starts at night, we are forced to travel to Makarfi with the pregnant woman conveyed on a motorcycle. This is dangerous.”
A medical practitioner, Dr. Yusuf Sule, told NAN that attending antenatal clinic was important because it boosts awareness which could help to prevent complications.
“Some women develop complications such as hypertension and diabetes. Antenatal classes give them the opportunity to understand the whole process of pregnancy, birth and early parenting,” he said.
Sule explained further: “The purpose of antenatal care is to prevent or identify and treat conditions that may threaten the health of the fetus, newborn and, or the mother, so as to help a woman approach pregnancy and birth as positive experiences.”
Meanwhile, an Islamic scholar, Malam Musa Tanimu, has said that male health personnel were permitted to receive deliveries during emergencies.
According to Tanimu, during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, women treated injured soldiers during war.
“Though, it is not permissible in Islam for men to interact with women ordinarily, but where there is emergency, both gender can be saving grace to one another.
“Drinking of alcohol and eating carcass are not permissible in Islam, as well. But when it becomes very necessary, that is, for one to quench thirst or hunger, such person is permitted to drink and eat those items,” Tanimu explained.
He, therefore, called on Muslim men to allow their wives access health care by men when it becomes necessary to avoid maternal and child mortality.