Kenya: A Mother Helping Other Mothers
Theresa Edapal (Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC)
Theresa Edapal, 35, is a mother of three: two girls, and a one-year-old boy. This makes her ideally placed to help other mothers and pregnant women in her village in northwest Kenya – an area where child and maternal mortality is still worryingly high.
“I was selected by my community to become a 'safe motherhood promoter,'" says Theresa. “I’ve been trained by the IRC to show other mothers the best way to breastfeed, and how to take their children to the clinic if they become sick.”
Part of Theresa’s role is also to persuade pregnant women to seek prenatal care and to deliver safely in a health facility. Yet this can be a challenge, as Theresa’s village of Moruangibuin is about 15km away from the nearest hospital in Kakuma town.
“I am the link between the community and the hospital,” says Theresa. “I give advice, like a pregnant woman must visit the clinic for at least one check up. And that, if a woman delivers at home and has a problem, she might lose the child. “
There are currently ten pregnant women in Moruangibuin, and Theresa recently brought five of them to Kakuma Mission Hospital for a check-up. The initial examinations all went well, but getting to the hospital was no easy matter. The women all had to walk there for around three hours in the heat because they couldn’t afford transportation.
A one-day-old baby girl who was born in the maternity ward at Kakuma Mission Hospital (Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC)
Poverty is a huge issue in Moruangibuin. And this has been compounded by a period of prolonged drought which has decimated livestock and crops.
“The soil is fertile,” says Theresa, “but we have no water so the plants only grow small and then die. I had ten goats, but all ten have died in the drought. It will be very difficult to replace them unless I get help.”
Theresa says the crisis has pushed food prices higher in the local market and she can no longer afford to buy meat for her family. A typical meal now is milk, posho or maize, and some vegetables. And finding water is also a challenge.
Theresa says: “We use river water and it’s a 5km walk to the river. We go once a day. If the river dries up, we have to travel to Kakuma River which is about a 15km walk.”
The lack of water is probably one of the contributing factors to an outbreak of cholera in the village. To date, no one has died from the disease because the community have been giving sufferers doses of rehydration salts and taking them to the hospital.
Thankfully, Theresa also has more joyous reasons for visiting the hospital and is seeing her work as a safe motherhood promoter begin to pay off.
She says: “Last week, I brought one women to the hospital. She delivered well and she had a healthy girl. The baby was called Asibitar, which means 'hospital' in our local language.”