Mulala Clinic: A Study in Providing Maternal Healthcare

| November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Image credit: US Department of State.

The drive to Sanari Village in the Limpopo Province of South Africa was jarring and just a little messy. I had traveled to South Africa to research the health seeking behaviors of women during pregnancy in rural areas; the dichotomy of Western and allopathic medicine in rural South Africa has presented numerous challenges for pregnant women. In order to improve maternal health in these villages, reproductive health education should be implemented and accessibility to clinics and medicine must increase.

Rothiwa, approaching 50 years old, has four children ranging in age from 4 to 25. Besides the age discrepancy, the biggest difference between her firstborn and lastborn is the presence of Mulala Clinic. The short 10-minute walk is manageable even for a pregnant woman, but 25 years ago, Mulala Clinic did not exist. Rothiwa’s only option for maternal healthcare was HaMakuya Clinic, beyond walking distance.

Her most recent childbirth is similar to a ‘normative’ case study. Mulala Clinic performed the urine test and provided her with vitamins. Rothiwa described the staff there as ‘not kind.’ While in labor, she called an ambulance to get to the hospital. She received no treatment for pain at the hospital but said that the nurses there ‘cared more about the patient.’ Her daughter was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, but a simple surgery solved the complication.

Twenty-five years ago, Rothiwa also gave birth at the hospital. However, without the convenience of the Mulala Clinic, Rothiwa had to walk to a bus stop and pay R10 to reach HaMakuya Clinic, which offered superior treatment. Due to distance, however, Rothiwa did not go back for monthly checkups.  Furthermore, she had to take a bus to the hospital when she felt labor pains. Once at the hospital, the childbirth went smoothly.

When 22-year-old Mudzunga found out she was pregnant, she first went to Mulala clinic for vitamins, then sought advice from her family. Her grandmother recounted stories of witches around the village tying women’s wombs, leading to miscarriage.  The only way to avoid this fate was to drink the herbs from a sangoma, or traditional healer.

When she started feeling labor pains, Mudzunga went to Mulala Clinic.  Mudzunga emphasizes that the clinic is a better alternative to traditional healing, as ‘a sangoma may lie to make money.’

Several overarching themes regarding reproductive health were observed in Sanari.  First, even among women who regularly went to the clinic, many traditional beliefs existed. Rothiwa’s story demonstrated not only how the construction of Mulala clinic improved the access to health care in Sanari village, but also how perceived quality of care were factors of perceived need/benefit of the professional sector. Mudzunga’s experiences exemplified how all three health care sectors were utilized during pregnancy and how folk beliefs could triumph the cost barrier to alternative treatment.

In order to continue to improve maternal health and decrease infant mortality rates, accessibility to clinics and hospitals must be improved. Paved roads would help these problems immensely. Beyond that, formal education regarding pregnancy and childbirth should be implemented in the school systems at a young age. A course on reproductive health would help to prevent teenage pregnancies, as well as provide safety education to those who are already pregnant.

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Category: Online, Women and Children

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