Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Hospital at the Bottom of the Cliff

Faces at the market 
The Predelivery Ward is the place that makes Jahun unforgettable, but theres no way it’s a tourist destination. 

Any place where women are giving birth is confronting to an ordinary person, even where  the process is as near normal as it can be the challenges to our sensibilities about expressions of deep human emotion, of seeing and hearing women in pain, of  the exposure of body parts, naked ness and near nakedness, tears, laughter, fear, blood and odour . Birth is always confronting but the truth is, mostly always ultimately joyful and healthy and successful.  Not here. Oh no.

The PDW in Jahun is something altogether different. It is like the place at the bottom of the cliff that has no safety fence at the top, the protective barriers of education, of the rights of women and girls, of health, of nutrition, maturity, antenatal care, of monitoring and understanding all gone. What is left is the arbitrary mercy of mother natures cruel midwife aided and abetted by cultural and religious custom that consigns women to a relentless reproductive career that begins at the earliest possible age and continues unabated till it becomes impossible by reason of age or death or disability. “Womens choice” is an oxymoron out here. Here they have almost no reproductive health rights and return again and again closer and closer to the edge of the cliff, no matter how close they get to falling off, time and again they return till the inevitable slip and down they plummet.

And yet, even though Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, the home of  20 of the 55 African billionaires and the richest African man and richest African woman, despite all the massive wealth of this country, out here there seems to be no  one trying to save them as they go over, let alone create the safety nets and warnings and signposts at the top, to stop them going over at all, or at least to stem the flood. 

And that is precisely why MSF is here at the bottom of the cliff in the outback of the poorest state in  Nigeria, trying to catch the bodies as they fall.  If not MSF then who? 
The Hospital Entrance 
Its more desperate than anything Ive ever seen.

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