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City of Banjul
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Let’s carry each other’s burdens

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Last week I spoke about the religious aspect of carrying each other’s burdens. This time I will look at the subject from another angle. I have been touching this subject before but I feel that there is more to say about it.Last week I spoke about the religious aspect of carrying each other’s burdens.

This time I will look at the subject from another angle. I have been touching this subject before but I feel that there is more to say about it.What is a burden? It depends on who you ask. When I think back on my time in Kafountine, Casamance, I see the small donkeys pulling an overloaded cart full of fire wood. The load seems far too heavy for the animal and every time it slows down the driver beats the poor animal with a stick.

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There is a large fishing place in Kafountine where they dry and smoke fish. Every afternoon that fishing place is covered with heavy smoke and it is not a nice place to pass. Imagine working there! Mothers carrying small babies on their backs and the babies inhaling that smoke. When the evening comes the only light you see in this place is from the charcoal under the smoking fish. It is not an easy task to move around there in the darkness, there are a lot of holes in the ground and garbage everywhere.

The fishermen who are working on the boats go to sleep early in the evening because they must get up early to go out fishing. The men sleep in shacks made of metal and you can imagine the heat in those shacks! Living and working in a place like this is almost only a matter of survival, living from hand to mouth.

They would not starve because there is always fish to eat for them, but there is not a great variation of the food and that leads to malnutrition.Eating a little white bread and some smoked fish is keeping the hunger away, but the human body needs a lot more nutrients which are not found in bread and smoked fish. We need vitamins and we get them through fresh fruits and vegetables.Vitamins keep us healthy and make the body to resist illness and children need it to grow properly. A lack of vitamin D for example can cause rickets.

Rickets makes the skeleton become soft. This illness existed here in Sweden too around the 1800s. You could see small children with bent legs that are not possible to use. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate.You have calcium in milk, for example, and in different kinds of milk products such as yoghurt and cheese. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from the food processed in your intestines.Calcium builds up the skeleton and makes it hard and strong.

If the level of vitamin D in the body is too low, the body can produce a hormone that releases calcium and phosphate from the skeleton and it becomes soft.Vitamin D is absorbed from the food we eat and is also produced in our skin by the sunlight. A lack of vitamin D can appear with people who:  · live in a climate with a low exposure of sunlight· stay indoors all the time· work indoors during daylight and do not go out· are intolerant to lactosis, the “sugar” in milk, the ingredient that makes it taste a bit sweet· don’t eat milk products, a vegan for example.

Babies that are breast fed only can develop a lack of vitamin D, especially the children with dark skin and who don’t get enough sunlight in the wintertime.We see that problem a lot here in Sweden where we have a very different climate than in The Gambia and other African countries. The winter here is long; in the northern parts of Sweden, it can last up to six months.  In any case; for these six months we don’t have a lot of daylight and especially sunlight.Even if the sun shines it would be too cold to stay outdoors to enjoy it without being fully covered against the cold – and that goes for all of us here.

We have a lot of Somali refugees living here and the women are dressed in hijab and clothes that cover almost the whole body.When these women are pregnant, they need vitamin D for the baby’s development and that is a problem when they are so covered. They must be very keen to eat healthy foods that contain vitamin D but they are not always aware of the problem and also not about how to avoid it.  When the women go to clinics the midwives try to advice them and make them understand how important it is to get enough of all the important nutrients.

It is not always an easy task depending on problems with the language, lack of female interpreters and a hesitation to leave some traditions. So many of these women are not educated and it can sometimes be a bit difficult for them to accept new knowledge.The information I’m giving you now applies to all women who are pregnant, wherever they might live in the world. The need for vitamin D is especially important in the last three months of pregnancy. Vitamin D helps the pregnant woman’s body absorb the calcium that is needed for the development of the foetus’ skeleton.

Vitamin D is also needed for the foetus’ growth, for the lungs, the nervous system and the immune system to develop in a normal way.Low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy can lead to a shortening of the pregnancy which can lead to severe consequences for the tiny baby. The baby is too small and not all of its body functions fully developed. Lack of vitamin D can also lead to preeclampsia which can be fatal for both the foetus and the mother. It happens very quickly. A pregnant woman would fall down dead in the home and the baby too would die inside her womb because the mother wasn’t taken to hospital fast enough.

I remember one case that happened nearby where I lived before. A mother of two, expecting her third child got acute preeclampsia, fell down on the kitchen floor in front of her children.When her husband, who was a farmer and far away working on the fields, finally went in the woman and the unborn baby was dead.  Imagine the shock for them all!May God rest the soul of this poor woman and her little baby!
There are three ways of getting enough with vitamin D:· Food· Sunlight· MedicationLiving in Africa there is no problems to get enough sunlight, but being poor the other two factors can be a real problem.Eating healthy food regularly is good for us all but crucial for the pregnant woman and her fetus.·

Fish · Meat· Fresh vegetables and fruit· Milk products· Potatoes, bread, rice, pastaThat is what they need and in my mind I’m going back to where I began: at the fishing place in Kafountine , Casamance .  The women can eat fish every day and hopefully buy some bread and rice.The rest, like meat, vegetables , fruit, milk products, pasta and even potatoes is nothing more than a dream for her.Carry each other’s burdens.

How can we ease the burden of all women who fear for their own and for their fetus’ health?This is not only in Kafountine, it is everywhere where fertile women live. What can we do for them? There are a lot to do, like lowering the food prices, educating the women about what is happening during a pregnancy.

The women must get professional help from a health clinic.  Men also need education about these matters because a good husband is protecting his wife.Being pregnant and then giving birth to a child is a risky business so therefore we need to take precautions so nothing bad will happen to the mother and/or the child.Taking care of each other, showing concern is really one way of carrying each other’s burdens and it pleases God.  Caring for pregnant women and the unborn children is not a private matter only.The children are our future and every child that is born is a miracle.

So many things can go wrong during a pregnancy and giving birth to a child is not only painful but also risky.So many things can go wrong and it can happen fast.I got preeclampsia every time I was pregnant so after have given birth to my last child I had to decide to get sterilized.It was very easy for me to become pregnant and I couldn’t take that risk again.The kinds of birth control that was possible to use was nothing I could use so I really had only one option. I wanted to see my kids grow up, God had blessed me three times so I didn’t want to stretch my luck.It was an easy operation and I’m lucky that I had that option.

The preeclampsia I had got worse for every time I was pregnant and the last time both I and my child was in risk to lose our lives.Alhamdulillah , God saved us both, but it was close!One of the consequences of my preeclampsia was a very high blood pressure.I wish that I had been informed about the risks with that because the blood pressure didn’t get low enough after I had given birth to my daughter by C-section.  So many of us mothers don’t take care of ourselves , we care about everyone else but forget ourselves .That is why I’m saying that the husband must help his wife to carry her burdens.

He must provide for her and allow her to rest when she is exhausted because of the pregnancy.Most women take their duties as mothers and wives seriously so we keep on struggling, caring, cooking, cleaning, providing for our families and don’t complain.This is making the men believe that there are no problems because we don’t speak about them.Please remember that many women are shy to speak about their “women-problems”.  They find it a bit embarrassing and maybe they have been taught that a wife shouldn’t involve her husband in these kinds of things.

If we go back in history, to about the 1970s it wasn’t still common in Sweden that husbands accompanied their wives to the hospital when it was time to give birth.It was certainly not common that he shared  the moment with her and comforted her in the pain when she gave birth.I can tell you that now almost every man follows his wife in to the room where she is giving birth.This has made the men more a part of the whole parenthood.

This has made the men to more understand what their wives are going through when they give birth.This has made the men not to take the miracle of childbirth for granted.He has seen her struggle, heard her moans and screams of pain.He has held her hand and dried her tears.He has seen his child getting born and shared that wonderful moment when the midwife is placing the newborn baby in its mother’s arms.If the childbirth has gone wrong he has shared the utter grief and cried bitterly together with his wife.This is also a way of carrying each other’s burdens, to be there for each other in good as well in bad times.

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