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How elderly women are championing antenatal, immunisation in Taraba

In Taraba communities, elderly women have taken the challenges of encouraging pregnant women to  attend antenatal clinics and children  to be allowed  for routine immunisation.…

In Taraba communities, elderly women have taken the challenges of encouraging pregnant women to  attend antenatal clinics and children  to be allowed  for routine immunisation.

The women who are mostly in their fifties and sixties are doing a good job of  creating awareness  among rural women and their husbands to attend antenatal clinics and also accept routine immunisation for their children.


As a result of the enlightenment embarked upon by the elderly women, mortality rate has reduced and there is an increase in the number of children being immunised during the routine immunisation programme  against killer diseases in the community  of Gassol Local Government Area of the state.


Mama to Mama, a health advocacy initiative which is supported by GAVI through UNICEF, is doing a wonderful job as revealed during a field visit by Daily Trust.

This     reporter  interacted with members of the group at some health facilities in Gassol Local Government Area as well as community leaders and women  in Mutum  Biyu community during the visit organised by UNICEF.


The group, through volunteers, has succeeded  in changing the negative attitude of  some members   of  the community  who do not allow  their wives to attend antenatal clinics or for child delivery at health facilities.


It    was   selfless  service   and commitment that the group achieved the   breakthrough of   encouraging members of the community to allow their pregnant  women access health facilities for antenatal care and for the immunisation of their children against killer diseases.


Mama-to-Mama programme was initiated one and a half years ago and the success story is laudable.


The women are now fully a health advocacy group working day and night in the communities, through visits to households, especially where there are pregnant women.

In the community visited, the group was lauded for working for the survival of both women and their children and also encouraging environmental health.

“Initially when we started Mamato-Mama work in June last year, there were several houses in this community where antenatal attendance and immunisation was a taboo,” Shafa’atu Abubakar, one of the group members said.

She said there were occasions when she was chased away during advocacy visits by husbands of pregnant women.

Safa’atu stated that she was never discouraged even when some husbands threatened her.


“Gradually we gained acceptance and the narrative changed and more and more pregnant women started attending antenatal clinics while the number of women coming to hospitals for delivery also increased, “ she said.


She said poverty, cultural norms and lack of knowledge of the importance of accessing health facilities were responsible for the negative attitude exhibited by husbands; not allowing their wives to attend antenatal clinics. 


Another member of the group, Khadija Abubakar, said as mothers, they know how women suffered during delivery at home and in the process, many women died and that was why she accepted to work as a member of Mama-to-Mama group.


“We are members of this community and when selected to work for health advocacy, l accepted in order to support my community to ensure safe parenthood and healthy children.


“At the initial stage, l encountered resistance from husbands and heads of family in accepting immunisation for their children and also allowing their wives to attend antenatal clinics,” Khadija said.


She said there were some houses that never allow their children to be immunised and that was the houses where there were children with zero doses of immunisation.


“I came across a woman who was in labour for two days and the husband refused to take her to a nearby maternity centre. I went to the house and saw her in a bad condition. l asked

of her husband and l was told he was in the farm and luckily, he had a phone. I immediately called and advised him to come and take his wife to hospital, but he refused.


“It took me hours to pursue him to agree but he said he didn’t have money, which l provided, and the woman was taken to the maternity centre where she was safely delivered,” she said.


Khadija further stated that the man few days later visited her in her house and thanked her for the assistance she rendered to his wife.


“ He told me that he would henceforth allow his wife to attend antenatal clinic and also allow his children to be immunised,” she said.


She said all stakeholders in the community and the local government council were helpful to the Mama-to- Mama group, adding that though they are volunteers and were not paid salary,

they were satisfied with their work of enlightenment to women and men in the community.


“Our work has brought a positive change in the community and people no longer refuse their children to be immunised or prevent their pregnant women from attending antenatal clinics,” she added.


The head of Buba Luka Maternity centre in Mutum Biyu,Madam Fatima Sani, said Mama to Mama group has done a very wonderful job of encouraging members of the community to accept routine immunisation for their children and husbands to allow their wives to attend antenatal clinic.


She said a significant increase in antenatal clinic attendance and response to routine immunisation programme were recorded following the activities of Mama to Mama in the community.


“We are witnessing an increase in the number of antenatal attendance and women delivery at the clinic more than what we recorded before the Mama-to-Mama group started their enlightenment work,” she said.


A community leader, Garba Sale, while commenting on the activities of Mama-to-Mama group, said the group is doing a very good job in health advocacy in the community.

He said the group has created awareness among members of the community, the importance of antenatal clinic attendance, immunisation and environmental hygiene.

“Only God will reward Mama to Mama group for the service it is rendering to the community. It has brought positive changes in our community by helping in improving women health and reducing mortality rate, “ he said.


He called on both Taraba State government and Gassol Local Government Council to encourage the group through good welfare and increasing the stipend given to Mama-to-Mama volunteers.


DanAsabe Addi, head of Primary Health Care Centre, Gassol Local Government Area, also expressed appreciation to the Mama-to-Mama group, adding that the group made duties of health workers easy because there is no resistance to routine immunisation in the community as it was before.


He commended Governor Agbu Kefas for up-grading health delivery system through provision of basic facilities as well as personnel.


He said primary healthcare services have improved through good funding and facilities provided by the state government.


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