Having a child is the happiest thing any parent dreams of, more especially if the child is born under the required circumstances.
Giving birth on the other hand is the most painful encounter, however after the birth one rejoices, but this is not the story with 33 year old Mercy Madwala of Busili village TA Liwonde in Machinga who have sworn never to give birth again but rather go for tubal ligation following the what she says a worst scenario in giving birth.
Madwala recalls the pain she went through to give birth to her 5th child who was born whilst on camp after her house was destroyed by heavy winds and strong rains that hit her village in March forcing them to camp at Namitoso on 6th March 2019.
“After this birth, I don’t think I want to give birth again, this is enough, this has been the most embarrassing experience in my life, children, young girls and boys saw me cry and it was shameful,” she said.
The case is not the only one that is happening in the set camps as expectant mothers expressed fear of the same scenario hence calling for government to consider safe rooms for women once disasters hit to avoid the embarrassment caused once labour starts.
Crises like the floods in Malawi magnify women’s reproductive needs and challenges as to succeed in delivering even in the most difficult contexts as they almost end up suffering in silence.
Madwala who started feeling labor pains early hours of 22 April, gave birth to her baby girl late night on the same day, saying not only was the labor pains painful but also faced double pain having no house and dignity at the camp to a point that young men seem to mock her after her labour pains encounter and it has brought shame to her life.
“It’s really bad, not only did I suffer humiliation but also the nearest health center is far from here, I was taken on the bicycle from here to Mtaja health center (almost 18 kilometers away) where I delivered upon arrival, as if the pain that I experienced on the way to the hospital wasn’t enough, the personnel at the clinic took turns on me that I went to the hospital late,”
Madwala told the Nation that it was her wish that government thinks of expectant women when setting up camps because oftenly they are neglected.
She said the camps only meet the shelter needs but essential care for women and children are oftenly overlooked.
For instance all the donations that come when people are displaced include food items and buckets, “So much as we appreciate this, there should also be a consideration for women needs,” she said.
Disasters have hit Malawi hard in recent years, leading to the country losing 1.7 percent of its Growth Development product (GDP) and leaving many desolate without food leaving women and children suffering a lot.
In the 2019 lean season government announced that it has set aside K68.5 billion (U$94.1 million) for food insecurity response to more than 3.3 million people who the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) projected that will be food insecure following a 28.4 percent decrease in maize production.
In addition to Government-provided maize, aid agencies have distributed cash in the hardest-hit districts, and supported treatment of severe acute malnutrition especially among children.
Following the devastation that comes after floods and some natural disasters UNFPA whose major interventions during a humanitarian crisis targets women and girls, said it is aware of the impact of the floods in all the 15 districts including the recent reports from Karonga floods and Rumphi landslides have had.
After chatting with the women in some camps including Namitoso where she had an interaction with women and young girls, UNFPA Country representative Won Young Hong said her organization is always there to make sure that the rights and needs of women and girls are at the forefront of humanitarian responses.
Hong said the stories that she have heard has made her realize that there is also that needs to be done on women and young girls as their needs are always not addressed during crises who are always victims of gender based violence and at risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections.
“There is need to maintain their dignity and restore safety and access to sexual and reproductive health, including services for safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as protection from gender violence as quickly as possible without Early intervention, sexual and physical violence can have life threatening consequences such as HIV/STI infection, unwanted pregnancy, depression and normalization violence,” she said.
Hong said it was sad to learn that women of reproductive age lack sanitary materials, pregnant women find it difficult to access health services in situations where roads remain impassable, some end up delivering in the camps with unskilled labour.
“While reproductive needs do not appear to be a priority at the beginning of any disaster, their consequences will surface in due course in form of increased cases of sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancies which further lead to school dropout, new HIV infections and newborn and maternal deaths,”
Government has since said the issues of women in camps are really overlooked especially at Namitoso where government did not look closely at the welfare of the campers, where it did not give the campers tents like in other camps where dignity of women at least could have been preserved.
Deputy Director of Family Nutrition HIV AIDS and humanitarian response, Charles Mazinga said the issues at Namitoso will be taken into consideration and promised to work on it.
“It is sad that we did not provide tents for the campers at Namitoso, which has resulted into them sleeping in classes affecting children who uses the classrooms to learn, there was need to provide necessary shelter for the campers, and on the other hand on women, as a department we need to take that also into consideration issues of women, our women are suffering and we overlooked that, we will work on it,” he said.
To help restore dignity of women, UNFPA has distributed Reproductive Health kits to nine flood affected districts; the kits include individual clean delivery kits, equipment and medicines for assisted delivery, management of rape and consequences of unsafe abortion among others.