DESPITE the on-going campaign for collective responsibility in improving mother and child health, it is still a taboo for husbands to take an active role in caring for their pregnant wives.
It is rare to see a husband accompanying a pregnant wife to attend clinic, enter the labour room and taking care of a newborn, including taking the baby to clinic. Women bear the burden alone in all steps of pregnancy and child care.
In many communities there have been no difference from Zanzibar where nurses and midwives are intensifying campaign to increase male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth.
In addition to the usual campaign through meetings, this year’s week to celebrate International Day of the Midwife (IDM) was important for the nurses and midwives, as they used it to encourage men to offer support to their wives during pregnancy, when giving birth, and nursing the newborn.
Women too, are debating over whether the husband should be allowed into the labour room, and frequently accompany his wife to clinic during pregnancy. Generally they say: “It is embarrassing to have a man near you all the time.”
But there are also views that many fathers would like to be present at the birth of their babies, and so are some mothers also wish their husbands could be by their side to comfort them as they endure the pains of labour.
Ms Valaria Rashid Haroub, Chairperson, ‘Zanzibar Midwives Association (ZMA)’ says that male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth is vital to improving health outcomes of women including with obstetric complications.
Let men be beside their wives, many feel better to see their husbands. The theme for IDM 2017 is “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!”, and the ZMA chairperson argues that a man being important figure in the family has a great role to play.
She said that the theme is timely in efforts to promote males role to their pregnant wives, and “Midwives everywhere understand that by working in partnership with women and their families they can support them to make better decisions about what they need to have a safe and fulfilling birth.”
Ms Amina Abdulkadir Ali, Chairperson, ‘Zanzibar Nurses and Midwives Council (ZNMC) urges married men not to be afraid of being close to their wives during maternity period and in labour room. Ms Ali, a nurse, a midwife, and teacher by profession says that her office has been keen in selecting students applying for nursing and midwives to avoid ‘bogus and unfriendly staff .’
“We are now keen when screening applicants to have the best and gracious nurses and midwives in our hospitals to provide services. There have been complaints from people that nurses and midwives use humiliating language when attending patients, it is unacceptable and we encourage respect of human dignity,” Ms Ali said. She said shortage of the nurses and midwives facing many hospitals should not, in any way, be used to harass patients including pregnant mothers who need comfort from both health staffs and family members. “It is true that we have shortage of nurses and Midwives.
Currently the ratio is one nurse to more than 30 patients, contrary to the ‘World Health Organization (WHO) recommended ratio of 1: 6,” she said adding the government has been working hard to train more health staffs, and capacity building in various areas like Emergency Unitary Care (EUC). She said Zanzibar is expecting, in the near future to have six to ten health staffs with Masters Degree in Nursing & Midwife after graduating from Muhimbili University of health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).
Ms Ali who is also the Chairperson of Zanzibar Nurses Association (ZANA), the graduates will play a great role in training nurses and midwives in Zanzibar at the Zanzibar College of Health and Allied Sciences, State University of Zanzibar (SUZA).
She said nursing and midwife courses are still being merged in Zanzibar because attempts to separate the professions did not work in late 1960s when “a group of health workers from Scandinavia countries trained nurses and midwives separately.”
As debate whether nursing and midwives should be separate careers, goes on, “We in Zanzibar, it is still a requirement for midwives also to study nursing because it is interrelated and must practiced concurrently when attending mothers at labour rooms.” She said having more skilled labour alongside improving health facilities in districts and regions, particularly in rural areas will definitely reduce maternal and newborn mortality and congestion at Mnazi Mmoja main hospital.
According to the Ms Ali most of the Primary Health Care (PHC) has been improved to provide services to the expectant mothers and newborn, and that mothers in company of husbands should go to nearby PHC instead of all people flocking to Mnazi Mmoja, where currently two mothers share a bed.
She said health services in Zanzibar have improving, a situation which motivates people including pregnant mothers to use hospitals instead of relying on Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in the Islands.