Photograph — huffingtonpost

Mothers and babies are dying in Guinea as pregnant women refuse to visit hospitals and health centres for ante-natal and delivery because they are scared of contracting the Ebola virus. A report by the BBC’s Tamasin Ford reveals that not only are women refusing to give birth in hospitals, they are also refusing to take their babies in for vaccinations, exposing them to several diseases and consequently death.

Doctors told Ford that the number of patients in the hospital has drastically declined since the Ebola epidemic, that the hospital was running at around 30 to 50 percent of its normal capacity because people were too scared to show up. When Ford visited Forecariah hospital, in western Guinea, there were only 18 patients, where they used to be over 50.

“The trust between the health system and the population hasn’t been completely restored. And because of that lack of trust, pregnant women are staying at home,” Dr. Mamadou Cisse, the director of the hospital told Ford. “They don’t even come for their ante-natal appointments,” he added, worried that they may be dying at home.

Before Ebola, Guinea was ranked as one of the countries with the worst cases of maternal and infant mortality – 1 in 10 children die under the age of five and women have a 1 in 30 chance of dying during childbirth. One can only imagine how bad things must have gotten now with the fear of Ebola. A UNICEF health specialist informed Ford that besides the death of mothers, polio and measles have been on a rise

Mamanata Soumah is a young woman who lost her baby. After being in labour for three days, she refused to go to the hospital. Her baby struggled till it died. “The baby just got too tired. It was born dead,” she told Ford. But who bears labour pains for three days without doing anything? Women like Soumah who are terrified of Ebola. She also said she never went for check-ups while she was pregnant. “I didn’t have the courage to go for check-ups at the clinic because so many people died there.”

Soumah’s sister-in-law also stayed three days at home in labour refusing to go to a doctor or midwife, thankfully, her baby survived. But at the time of reporting the story, Ford said the new mum was yet to take her two-month-old baby to a hospital to get vaccinated. “During Ebola people left to go to the clinic but they never came back. I’m scared to go now in case I don’t come back.”

The government needs to seek measures to end the avoidable deaths of mothers and children. The solution is simple. Trust must be built between the health system and the people, and this can only be done through education and enlightenment. How hard can it be to create programmes to this end?

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