Sunday, April 22, 2012

PMI en Brousse

Two times a week the PMI nurses do mobile clinics in various villages (I’ve gone with them a couple times now), and this past Thursday we went to Bellevue, which is only accessible by boat. It was a little over an hour along the Ogooue (I have a nasty sunburn to prove it). There were only around 7 moms/babies there because a lot of families leave during the rainy season. When we got there we walked around the village to announce our arrival. When we go to villages by car, we drive up and down the main road honking the horn so people know we’ve arrived. Once we rounded people up we got to work weighing babies…..except we realized we forgot the harness things to put the babies in for weighing. After brainstorming for alternatives we decided on scarves (see pictures below). The pink one is my scarf. I asked the mamans to leave the babies’ diapers on for weighing (normally the kids totally strip down).

After weighing we did the requisite education/awareness part, and for the first time the women verbalized the doubts I’ve had all along about this education/awareness bit. The topic depends on who is leading that day: sometimes it’s focused solely around HIV/AIDS, but when the Majeure (head nurse) leads, she talks about everything from breastfeeding to safe sex. Normally it ends up being lecture style. People rarely make comments or ask questions, but every once in a while we’re able to solicit a response. On this particular day when the Majeure started talking about needing to use condoms (we pass them out at PMI) because of all the different partners people have, one woman had a total backlash. She stood up in the middle of the talk, slung her baby around her back and tied the fabric around as if she were about to leave, and paced back and forth saying things like “it’s no use giving me condoms, my husband won’t use them. He comes back from the city where he’s been with other women but if I give him a condom he’ll say I don’t have to use that with you, you’re my wife. He’ll hit me if I try to push it. It’s not me who sleeps around so don’t tell me about this stuff.”

Every time we do these talks I wonder about this specific issue, and finally someone said it. I have only ever seen one man at PMI, and I think he was the older brother of the infant. And so these women come and we tell them about things that really do pertain specifically to them in this context, things like breastfeeding, malaria, infant malnutrition etc, but we also tell them about things like HIV and STIs which aren’t necessarily in their control. After this eruption the Majeure suggested telling the husbands things like “look at the children we already have, the ones we can’t even feed. We can’t afford another one. We can’t bring another child into this world that we can’t provide for.” That might work, or it might not. It’s also only on the individual level. Seems to me like we could direct our efforts elsewhere, or at least equally with both groups.

Boat ride to Bellvue.

How to collect palm wine

Baby elephant skull. Can you imagine chasing this guy out of your garden?

The village

Mamans headed to clinic, and a picture of how babies are carried.


Weighing a one week-old in a scarf.

For those who couldn't fit in a scarf, we had them hang onto the scale.

New pants!

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