The Plight of the Pregnant Women
Overnight many more refugees arrived, some estimates put the number at around five hundred. They slept in communal tents or wherever there was a sheltered floor space. Many more men were in the group lining up to be registered. There were very few belongings; a bed-roll here and there, plastic plates and cups and clothes, suitcases and there were two very well-fed chickens, pecking away for their breakfast. They probably would become someone's dinner in the not so distant future. Some refugees arrived by trucks provided by the Uganda government and police but funded by UNHCR. Sometimes the refugees are evacuated by the UN from the DRC to the Ugandan border when fighting is intense. The refugees continue to arrive on foot or by boda-boda. A proud mother was busy offering a simple breakfast of cornmeal to her children.
As I headed towards the MTI tent, I heard a quiet pattering behind me. Turning around was this little girl wishing to get her picture taken and when I showed her picture to her, she gave a shy smile and covered her face with her arm.
The month of August there were three newborns who died of cold exposure. Congolese women are opposed to going to the hospital giving birth lying on a bed, they prefer the squatting position. Apparently multiparous women have been known to give birth by themselves, managing to cut the umbilical cord and delivering the placenta. Unfortunately there are fatalities.
Family planning is not generally accepted and the men have the final say. It is not uncommon to have five to six children by the time the women reach their late twenties. The midwife met a twenty-year-old woman who has six children and also a women with her seventeenth pregnancies, all sixteen of her children are alive.
This woman has a pregnancy that has reached term and has finally agreed to go to the hospital for her delivery as the position of the baby makes home or tent delivery dangerous. Part of the problems uncovered is the women refugees are unwilling to leave their small children unattended while they are in the hospital. This is a legitimate problem and is something that Red Cross or UNHCR should look into providing care for the children while the mother is gone for delivery. Her husband left DRC about two months ago and she thinks he is at the Rwamwanja Camp. I hope that there is also a system of contact-tracing to reunite families that have been separated in the confusion of the conflicts and escaping to safety.