By Halimatou Ceesay
Kunle Adeniyi, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative resident in the Gambia has warned against advising women to have more children than their bodies can take.
Kunle was speaking in an interview recently in his office at the UN House, Cape Point Bakau.
“We cannot continue to encourage our women to have more children than their body can take or to have children at a very young age when their body is still the body of a child to become a mother. It leads to death, so we will work within that framework to also push that. And also Gender Based Violence and this revolves around to make sure that the rights of women are respected and to ensure that we stop harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM,” he said.
“Maternal death is mostly avoidable. Of course there are some things that you cannot do anything about due to some religious beliefs but most of the maternal deaths we have are avoidable. Gambia has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world. Why is this? We notice that one of the major reasons for maternal death is lack of access to emergency obstetric care,” he noted.
He said when a woman goes into labour and has difficulty, it then becomes difficult to be attended to by a skilled health professional, be it a doctor, highly trained nurse.
Adeniyi said “because of our development indicators, in many places outside the greater Banjul areas; they do not have access to these resources and because of our poverty indicators also it becomes difficult. Many women have to travel 200km for cesarean sections in the Gambia and remember when the ferry is not coming from Farafenni, it can become an issue. When a woman has to travel 200km and already in labour and has lost a lot of blood and is having obstructed labour. Most of the time could be brought dead upon arrival.
“We are trying, working to bring that high health closer to people. In recent times we have invested in the health centre in Kuntaur making it well equipped and are able to attend to women. We are happy that the Government has now tried to put human resource there. Also in Soma we invested there to make sure that it can attend to women.
“Can we do it all? We cannot do it all. I wish we have limitless resources so that we can support Government in making every clinic functional but we are gradually improving this access. With our support to Government maternal mortality dropped to as of 20years in about half but we are still far away from the target. So we will continue to find ways to see how we can work in a smart way to see that we give access to most remote and deprived people so that more lives are saved,” he said.