Once again, I blog to you from a cybercafé in (way too) sunny downtown Ouagadougou. The power cut out in our neighborhood at about 7am this morning and who knows when it will be back on... My technique is to spend the maximum amount of time out running errands in cool places like banks and supermarkets. My car (repaired now!) is also a nice place to be, as the air-con works really well. Nothing else does, mind you, but the air-con is fine.
I am just hoping that we're not headed for a long, hot, electricity-less wekend.
Curse you, Sonabel!
My mailbox today contained an invitation from the
So, it looks like I won’t be reporting on the groundbreaking ceremony, but I’m sure that some other interesting (if not frankly bizarre) thing will happen to me, providing plenty of blog-fodder. I just hope it’s nothing bad - nothing like the horrible and mysterious guinea-pig plague that swept through our pet population on Wednesday.
That day we lost three one-day old babies (who had seemed quite healthy for several hours) and also the mom pig Patches. The post-mortem c-section that the vet’s assistant and I did revealed three more dead pups, so we lost seven in total.
I have been involved in two c-sections for human friends since I have been in Burkina. I only had to pay for them- I didn’t have to assist the surgeon (How thankful am I for that? Very.) Of course, they cost a lot more- about 100 dollars. I paid about 80 cents US for the one at the vet’s office.
I’m very happy to report that the human cases both had much happier outcomes. Live babies and moms. Not that the average Burkinabe maternity clinic is a walk in the park- it’s not even a short stroll somewhere vaguely pleasant. In general, to give birth, you lay on a cement slab in a stifling room (you’re lucky if there’s a fan) while overworked nurses bark orders at you and even insult you. I’m not saying this always happens, but I’ve talked to lots of women and spent many hours in maternity wards… (Plus, JP’s research team has done research on the topic! Fascinating stuff!)
If you are lucky enough to get out of that alive, (which is quite a trick-1000 mothers in 100,000 die in childbirth. 36 babies in each 1000 dies as a neonate) you get a cracked vinyl mattress in a hot, dirty ward jammed with women and babies. Plus, each woman has a female friend/family member staying with her at all times- even sleeping at night on the floor next to her mattress, on a bit of cloth or a plastic mat. You have to have this help because there is no help at all for you in the ward. You have to be up washing diapers in a bucket, heating bath water over a fire, etc…there’s lots of hard physical work that need to be done. Plus, there is no food at the hospital- at all. There's no food service, no cafeteria, not even an old lady going around with a pot of rice to sell. Nothing. Someone has to cook for you there (over a wood fire) or bring food in. If you are a woman on her own, you have no help and no food.
One of the friends I mentioned is paralysed due to childhood polio and gave birth to twins, so her case was very difficult and she was in the hospital quite a long time. I brought her her breakfast every morning and spent time visiting with her. This gave me lots of time to observe the goings-ons. It was a very eye-opening experience, to say the least.
There is lots of pressure on women here NOT to give birth at home with traditional mid-wives. Everyone is supposed to go to a hospital and be “modern”. But based on what I’ve seen, I certainly understand why many women resist. If I were given a choice between giving birth in a local maternity clinic and doing it in a mud hut- frankly, I’d choose the mud hut.