Tag Archives: Health

Mashed Bananas, Dettol and Maternal Health

Last week I headed back out into the Western Region with the Pro-Link team for another Healthy Mother & Child training session with nurses from various district health facilities. We also delivered some of the IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials which included posters about breastfeeding and staying away from using herbs to trigger contractions. HalfAssiniBreastfeedingPoster
Director Trudi Nunoo spoke with various district health personnel about the Mummies, Daddies and Adolescent clubs which educate about maternal health and provide ideas for local communities to prevent dangerous situations, such as lack of transportation to clinics. This is a real problem for some of the more rural communities. When a woman is facing birth complications often she can’t get a taxi to take her due to lack of money and also because of the mess she might make in the back seat. Communities are working out various ways to raise funds and have a reliable transport referral system. Drivers want to know they’ll get paid, plus they want Dettol to clean up and disinfect their vehicles. In some areas churches are working on ways to get the funds and in others it’s the nurses.
I was lucky to witness a Child Welfare Clinic in Essiama with Ellembelle District Public Health nurse Judi Okine. Judi was there to give a presentation to mothers on nutrition and the best foods to use when weaning a baby off breast milk after they’re six months old. She laid out a table with a blender to create a watermelon juice, and also demonstrated how babies can eat mashed yams and mashed bananas. I was privileged to watch the weigh-in and some vaccinations (not popular with the little ones).

Judi gives moms nutrition tips at Essiama market.

Judi gives moms nutrition tips at Essiama market.

Another focus of the trip was to check in on the construction of some maternal health facilities. In Nkroful, we saw that the health centre was almost complete…I’m sure a relief to the moms who have had to give birth in a temporary set up next door.
Entrance to the temporary birthing room.

Entrance to the temporary birthing room.

NkrofulDeliveryBedNkrofulMothersA very cool trip giving me lots more insight on the Healthy Mother & Child project.

Miracle Moringa Trees Could Help Haiti

I posted this story about moringa trees in Haiti recently on the Innovate Development site. Will check the study at year end to see what they have found.

HERhealth project: Supporting factory workers in Vietnam.

With capacity building about health, hopefully women can take more control over their own bodies.

With capacity building about health, hopefully women can take more control over their own bodies.

This is a link to a piece I wrote describing HERhealth for Innovate Development – it’s a program that helps educate women factory workers about their health….

The irony that is Swaziland

Before Christmas, there was a so-called “Mini-Skirt” march in Manzini to bring attention to the fact that women are harassed and even raped at the bus rank for wearing short skirts. Police said they could only march if they put on longer skirts…so the girls did, and then did a big rant in Jubilee Park, “Sister sister, my vagina belongs to me and nobody else.” Here’s the fruit of their labours..a law banning mini skirts, but not the annual ceremony before the king where everything hangs out. What a country! Check this link..

Mini Skirt March in Manzini, Dec. 7, 2012. Police said they could only march if they put on longer skirts, long shorts or pants.

Official costume at Umhlanga, where maidens dance for the King, and many, many Chinese tourists.

The King, the police and the tourists are all good with the official attire at Umhlanga, the annual Reed Dance ceremony.

Why HIV/AIDS is so prevalent in Swaziland

Explaining the connection between GBV and HIV/AIDS to dignitaries at the Mavuso Centre in Manzini.

On Friday, Nov. 30, Swaziland celebrated World AIDS day with a march and a presentation for 500 people at the Mavuso Trade Centre in Manzini. Two thirds of the people in attendance were from government, including police and correctional services.

I lined up for the march at 8 am and got one of the few remaining t-shirts, which a staff member at SWAGAA quickly commandeered from me when she didn’t receive one. Oh well, I didn’t come to Swaziland for the t-shirts.

Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. The SDHS 2007 study showed that 26 percent of the population aged 15-49 was infected with HIV/AIDS. Anti retroviral drugs have improved the average lifespan from around 33 in 2006 to around the mid-to-high 40s today. I use the word “around”  because health care practitioners here have told me the statistics are notoriously unreliable.

At a meeting led by the National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS, (NERCHA) that I attended prior to this year’s World AIDS Day events, we were told, “Don’t use the word ‘success’ but ‘achievements.’ We still have a long way to go.” An article in the newspaper the same day said the 75 percent of deaths in Swaziland were due to AIDS.

SWAGAA had an exhibitor’s stall at the event and we handed out information about gender-base violence. When dignitaries came to our booth, I told them about the link between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. It seems obvious, but not everyone thinks about it. When a woman is being beaten or raped, it is unlikely a condom will be used. Tears in the genital area offer an easy pathway for the infection to travel. Then there are the indirect ways GBV is linked to HIV/AIDS. If someone has been sexually abused, especially as a child, they may suffer low self-esteem and become promiscuous or go into prostitution.  Or, they may become drug addicts. This risky behavior can lead to infection.

Why is the HIV virus spreading at such an alarming rate in Swaziland? Most HIV/AIDS organizations  focus on behavior. Swaziland is on the border of Mozambique and South Africa. Truck drivers or migrant workers stopping for causal or paid sex transmit the disease. Then there’s something called Multiple Concurrent Partners (MCP). Many people sleep with a few partners at the same time. This could be transactional sex, to help pay for school fees or groceries. It might be to pay back a cheating partner; it might be due to loneliness when a partner spends months away on work contracts. Swaziland has high unemployment. It’s expensive to live here and school fees for rural people, dependent on subsistence farming, are high. Then there is patriarchy and polygamy. There are many prevalent scenarios. Men feel it is their right to have multiple wives and yet often they are unable or unwilling to take care of them, and their children. Young girls become pregnant and have no support from their families or the man who made them pregnant. Women are discouraged from talking about sex culturally, so often there is sexual dissatisfaction in a marriage. The spiral goes on and on.

Here are some quotes from Swazi participants in a study published in Onelove, a 2008 10-country research report funded by Irish Aid, DFID, and the European Union amongst other donors. The report says young people are often pressured by their peers to acquire material possessions they cannot afford and so they become involved with an older person who provides these things in exchange for sex. Here, it’s called ‘Intergenerational sex.’ A participant noted, “It’s the relationship between teachers and students yet the teacher has got a wife or a girlfriend and at the same time the student has got a boyfriend.” The report also noted that polygamy and gender inequality create serious power imbalances that fuel MCP.

HIV/AIDS continues to spread in Swaziland, but not at quite the pace of the mid-2000s. Achievements, not success. The big theme at  this year’s event  was about getting to zero infections. Tackle the root causes of behavior and there might be a chance.