- She has been trained on different occasions in vital matters of her profession.
- She delivers an average of twelve expectant women every month.
- Kundu says traditional birth assistants need recognition by the government for their role.
Agnes Kundu, 75, a traditional birth attendant from Budalangi constituency in Busia county, has, for decades, been helping expectant mothers deliver.
The traditional birth attendant dropped out of Mudembi Primary School in class four because her poor parents could not afford school fees.
Learning the art
She learned the art at age twelve from her late mother, a prominent traditional birth attendant spanning many years, who introduced her to the trade she confesses has been her only source of livelihood to date.
Despite hordes of challenges she has encountered in her line of duty, she has stuck to the responsibility to date. She says only death will separate her from the same.
The confident traditional birth attendant has a wealth of hands-on experience gathered over twenty years.
Her role, which saw her climbing the ladder of fame, eventually earned her a rare opportunity among many that enabled her to participate in various maternal training sessions on effective delivery.
Unlike other TBAs yet to be trained on how to deliver babies and effective handling of pregnant mothers, the traditional birth attendant from Munginia village in Ruambwa sub-location was, in 1987, sponsored to attend a maternal health training workshop under the auspices of Action Aid, a non-governmental organization, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
She was awarded a certificate for successfully completing the three-phase training as a traditional birth attendant.
Kundu also had another golden opportunity to attend a marathon maternal training workshop held under Médecins Sans Frontières (doctors without borders).
The training covered HIV/AIDS and risk factors, prevention measures, community involvement and support, destigmatization, ways of mother-to-child transmission, and pre-natal services and assessments.
Other areas covered are prevention of mother-to-child transmission, labor and delivery, danger signs, and the role of CORPS in postpartum, among others.
Applying her skills
Apart from helping expectant mothers to deliver, the traditional birth attendant also applies the training she had acquired from the maternal training workshops to encourage her clients to visit the nearest voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) centers within their respective areas for guidance and counseling and also be able to know their HIV status.
She also takes time out of her busy day-to-day schedule to reduce stigma by urging a section of her clients who are staying with people living with HIV and Aids (PLWAs) to show them love and also treat them well, just like any other human being, without discrimination.
“We should not discriminate against those living with HIV/AIDS because they are also human beings. It was not their wish to be what they are, nor did they ever make any application to their creator to be what they are.
That is why I am committed to sensitizing the majority of my clients living with HIV-positive persons not to discriminate against them and instead show them love to reduce the stigma that has, in most occasions, ended up demoralizing them,” she says.
Her positive attitude toward the welfare of her clients, especially the HIV-positive persons she has sensitized, has turned her homestead into a beehive of activity as scores flock to the home to either chat with her or seek guidance and counseling on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.
Infection prevention measures
To ensure the safety of expectant mothers seeking her services, the traditional birth attendant has put infection prevention measures in place.
“I take great caution to ensure the safety of expectant mothers while delivering the babies,” she emphasized.
“For the safety of expectant mothers coming to seek for my services, I use separate razor blades while cutting the umbilical cords after the babies have been delivered,” Kundu added.
Recognition of TBAs
Kundu is sending a desperate appeal to the county government of Busia, the national government, and health stakeholders to consider recognizing and embracing the role the traditional birth attendants across the divide play in society instead of downgrading and treating them like quacks.
“Traditional birth attendants are offering crucial services to expectant mothers. I call upon the two arms of government to consider recognizing the role we play in society,” said Kundu.
The renowned traditional birth attendant further got into the limelight when she saved the life of a 17-year-old expectant girl whose parents had rushed her for delivery recently.
Doctors in the nearby health facility were on industrial strike.
During the five-month strike, scores of patients, especially those from cash-strapped families who could not afford to take their sick persons to private health institutions for emergency medical attention, faced a lot of agony.
Some unfortunate patients lost their lives.
Twelve babies monthly
The traditional birth attendant further confided to Scholar Media Africa that she normally attends to an average of three expectant mothers per week, translating into twelve babies monthly.
This is happening despite the Ministry of Health’s concerted campaign discouraging expectant mothers from seeking traditional birth attendants’ services and instead delivering at government-run public health centers.
A life-saving initiative
However, the downtrodden traditional birth attendant has become the talk of every corner of Budalangi constituency and its environs for her initiative to help deliver the unnamed expectant young schoolgirl.
“We traveled from Bukoma in Port Victoria to a local health center, fifteen kilometers away, where my daughter had been going for her routine checkups.
I was surprised when the nurses at the health facility refused to attend to my pregnant daughter, who had already developed labor pains,” said the mother.
“I rushed her to Agnes Kundu, who did everything at her disposal to save my daughter’s life,” she said.
The 17-year-old expectant girl is just one among scores of expectant mothers that the renowned traditional birth attendant has handled.
Everline Sakwa, aged fifty and a mother of five from Munginia village, says that throughout her marital life, she has never visited any public hospital to deliver.
“Kundu has been taking care of all my maternal needs ever since I got married and started bearing my children. I have total confidence in her,” she told Scholar Media during a recent interview.
Josca Namenya, 45, a mother of ten from Bukhoba village, said in her marital life history, all her children, all alive, have been delivered by the traditional birth attendant.
YOU CAN ALSO READ: It’s Now O’clock; arise and shine, Women Movement challenges girls, women
“Ever since I was married twenty years ago, all my ten children have been delivered by the said traditional birth attendant. I have never experienced any health implication ever since,” confessed Namenya.