My experience with births in Ouarégou

My name is Kadietou Sare. I was born in a small village called Beguedo in Burkina Faso, where girls are encouraged to marry and bear children at an early age. During that time, I witnessed women suffer a lot during their pregnancy, especially during childbirth. Most women give birth at home because there is no hospital or the hospital is too far away. Moreover, the villagers believe that it makes no difference whether you give birth in the hospital or at home.

Three months before the birth of my first baby, the wife of one of our neighbours died in pain during childbirth. No one could take her to the hospital because there is no transport for such a situation. I believe that if she had been taken to the hospital, at least the unborn child could have been saved. Unfortunately, something similar happens to a lot of women and everywhere in the countryside in Burkina Faso.

I remember going to work the day before my own first child was born and I felt the contractions. I was still cooking and doing everything I did every day. Even if I had told anyone about the contractions, no one would have done anything. Or they would have said that I was just saying that because I didn’t want to work. I saw this being said a lot with other women. It was August and rainy season, so it was impossible to get to the hospital even with a motorbike, bicycle or cart. That is why the old women in my husband’s house took care of me. They had to get a woman from the hospital to help me because it took too long for my child to come. They were all afraid that something might happen to me. And the worst thing about the birth was that there was no light in the house. The midwife and the women had to use torches. There is no medication before or after the birth and after the baby is born you are on your own. Maybe some old women bathe you in boiled tree leaves after the birth, using very hot water. And they tie your belly as tightly as possible to keep your belly flat after birth.

In my village even today, a birth happens like this or similary. In 2018, my cousin died in childbirth with her twins. When she was at work and went into labour, there was no one to drive her to the hospital. And after she was dead, there was not even an attempt to bring her body to the hospital to save the unborn children if necessary.

„A pregnant women stands with one foot on the ground and with one foot in the greave.

(African proverb)

Infant mortality (death before the age of 1) was 5.1% in Burkina Faso in 2017 [1] and for every 1000 births, an average of 3.7 women gave birth died in 2015 [2]. By comparison, in Germany, infant mortality is around 0.3% [3] and for every 100 000 births, only 4 women have to die [4]. Although rates have declined significantly in recent decades [1][2][5], there is still a large discrepancy between urban and rural populations [6]. Thus, for many women in Burkina Faso, as in other sub-Saharan African countries where the figures are similar, the same still holds true.