The Traffina Foundation: Identifying Harmful Cultural Practices in Nigeria
This September, while world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly, WRA called on our members to submit stories and photographs that illustrate progress being made to maternal and newborn health, as well as the efforts of advocates to hold governments accountable to commitments that have been made to Every Woman, Every Child. This posting comes from Ibe Chinomnso Traffina, a midwife and the founder of the Traffina Foundation for Community Health in Nigeria. Her description of the foundation’s work to prevent maternal mortality in her community is a reminder of the need for local responsibility and potential for local solutions. A great deal of progress can be made when individuals use knowledge of their own community’s problems and resources to create solutions. Read about the Traffina Foundation’s work in preventing maternal mortality below.
My name is Miss Chinomnso Traffina Ibe, I am a registered nurse midwife in my country Nigeria.
The Nigerian government and the Federal Ministry of Health have been doing a lot to improve maternal and child health.
Seventy-five percent of maternal deaths arise from: pre-eclampsia, hemorrhage, obstructive labour, anemia, sepsis, and unsafe abortion. But there are underlying causes that trigger all of these problems. There are obstacles and harmful cultural practices that women are subjected to that give rise to the above listed.
Now the question is: what happens to the women that don’t have access to health facilities due to one reason or another? Many, especially in rural communities will utilize cultural practices instead of seeking care at a health facility.
Identifying harmful cultural practices in our various communities in Nigeria has opened our eyes to a numerous underlying cultural practices and harmful practices that threaten maternal health.
After embarking on research in communities, some of the horrible practices women secretly told our team that they are subjected to include:
- The insertion of herbal leaves, powders, ground stones, cloth or commercial products (for example, toothpaste, antiseptics, or soap), into the vagina. It is a common belief in some parts of Eastern Nigeria that this helps to beautify the baby.
- Drinking of concoctions made of herbs that help to stimulate labor contractions; this is usually done a few days before the Expected Delivery Date.
- Hitting the pelvic region with the bone of a particular animal to expand the pelvis for easy passage of fetus.
- Placing cow dung on the umbilical stump of neonates to speed up the separation of the stump. Substances applies to the umbilical stump can cause serious infections or even death in a newborn.
- Cooking the placenta and drinking its water; this is thought to produce more breast milk.
- Induction of bleeding after childbirth (postpartum haemorrhage) is thought to clear the uterus of “impure blood”. In fact, postpartum haemorrhage is the primary reason for maternal death worldwide.
Other post-partum harmful practices include the “agurya” cut (removal of the hymen loop on 7-day-old females).
In order to address the harmful cultural practices threatening the health of mothers in our community, we started a program called “lets save our mothers”. This programme includes a lecture on the effect of harmful cultural practices. Husbands from the community came and could not stop crying when they realized the effect of these practices.
In most of these communities NO DEATH has been recorded to any woman during both pregnancy and after childbirth since this program began because all these harmful practices have been abolished by the community and women now live to care for their children and families.
Demonstrators from the Traffina Foundation spread awareness about harmful cultural practices for pregnant women in their community, holding signs that say "No Woman Should Die Prematurely".