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COVID-19 lockdown increasing patronage of TBAs

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Pregnant women seek review of restrictions in Rivers

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaging many countries across the world appears to have taken a severe toll on pregnant women. Given the present challenges of medical infrastructure and government response to contain the spread of the virus, some pregnant women in Rivers State have resorted to patronizing Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) at the moment.

TBAs are people, mostly older or middle-aged women who are traditionally independent of the health system and are community-based providers of care during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal periods. These categories of people are much more accessible and affordable than the professionals though they did not receive formal training.

In Rivers State, where the two major local government areas, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt are locked down by the state government, movements are totally restricted except those on essential duties, until recently after a gynaecologist, Dr. Eli Sukarime, raised an alarm about a pregnant woman he operated but was refused access to the hospital for medical checks by some overzealous security personnel.

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Findings revealed that a lack of transport system for those who registered in hospitals that are far away from their homes and the harassments their husbands or taxi drivers who convey them are subjected to by security operatives explain the willingness of some women to opt for the TBAs.

During pregnancy, women are supposed to visit healthcare facilities from antenatal clinics, doctors appointments, emergency appointments and delivery appointments. The COVID-19 rising challenges, therefore, has compelled some of the pregnant women who do not have vehicles or other means of transportation to the hospital facilities to resort to TBAs.

The Guardian correspondent encountered one Mrs. Patrick Nnnena, who lives around Garrison junction by Aba road and was trekking to new Mile One Clinic where she registered for the antenatal clinic, (a journey of about three hours by foot).

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She looked pale and was barely lifting her legs for the required movement. Nnenna said: “I am trekking to the hospital because I have been sick, I went to see my doctor last week and he said I have malaria. He asked me to take Palodrim two times daily for seven days, I have done that but I am still feeling very sick, dizzy and weak, so I decided to return to the hospital again today.

“My husband has a car and he is in the house but he could not drive me to the hospital because last week when he drove me to the hospital he was arrested by the State COVID-19 task force on his way home and was taken to the isolation center, so because of fear, he declined taking me to the hospital again.”

Nnnena who is still in her first trimester, however, appealed to the state government to review its strategies on the lockdown measures to enable pregnant women to access the health care facilities with ease.

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