Women with physical disabilities in Kano say they face diverse challenges during pregnancy and childbirth, and hope the new Disability Law will salvage their situation.
The National Women Co-coordinator Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), Hajiya Rabi Yusuf Gezawa (MON) who shared the predicaments of JONAPPWD members disclosed that many health facilities in Kano state do not have services in place to accommodate the needs of women with physical disabilities during pregnancy and childbirth.
According to her, there is a public perception that women with disabilities cannot have a safe motherhood experience and are often assumed not to be sexually active or have children like able-bodied women.
“We have so many reported experiences of prejudice from our members, especially those pregnant.
“We face a lot of stigma and discrimination from health service providers and other health workers at various health facilities.
“Some of these health service providers are fond of using abusive words on us, such as who did this wicked thing to you, May God punish the man that did this to you,” she narrated.
She noted that stereotype is one of the reasons why pregnant women with physical disabilities are given little or no attention at hospitals.
Gezawa said: “There is no flexible appointment time for disabled pregnant women in hospitals, no outreach services, and no lessening of ante-natal costs for physically challenged pregnant women.
“Physically disabled pregnant women also have the challenge of using the beds and chairs that are not friendly, no special weighing scale in all the hospital facilities in the state.
“No accessible toilets, passages, doorways, and rooms to accommodate wheelchairs users making it difficult for them to navigate.”
She further revealed that most hospitals in the state do not have personnel who are aware of or are specialized in disability inclusion.
Gezawa joyfully expressed hope that with the new Kano State People with Disabilities (PwD) bill, things may change, adding that will largely depend on the quick implementation of the legal framework of the law by the government.
On her part, the Northwest Zonal Coordinator, of the National Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities (NAPWPD), Bilikisu Ado Zango said though the structures in hospitals are not PwDs friendly, but, the major problem is the attitudes of the health workers.
“We are treated with little or no respect, which is inhuman,” she bemoaned, adding that PwDs do not have special care during pregnancy and childbirth.
According to Hajia Zango because of the bed factor, most of her members prefer to deliver their babies at home rather than go to the hospital, a situation she described as risky.
“No special attention is given to a physically disabled pregnant woman, none that I am aware of other than the health insurance scheme that we have across state own-health facilities which are under the Contributory Health Care Management Agency,” she said.
Usaina Umar is physically challenged. She lives in the Wuro Bagga section of the eastern bye-pass in Hotoron Kudu, Nassarawa local government area, Kano.
Umar shares her pregnancy and childbirth experiences.
“When I was pregnant it was not easy for me, I had a very bad experience with health workers because, during my ante-natal at Sir Muhammadu Sunusi Specialist Hospital, I was denied the care that I was supposed to be given.
“I was supposed to be informed that I cannot go through normal labor and that the only thing that can be done for safe delivery is to have a Caesarean Section (CS), but the health officials didn’t inform me.
“Unfortunately for me, a day before the expected date of delivery, I went for ante-natal but I was still not informed; consequently, during labor, the baby died in my stomach.
“That was my first attempt at childbirth…it turned out to be very painful and full of sadness.”
According to Umar, that incident happened ten years ago, but even with the bad experiences, she still wishes to get pregnant but she’s waiting on Allah’s time.
Umar said physically challenged pregnant women are supposed to be given special care but the reverse is the case in Kano.
An obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), who prefers to remain anonymous, disclosed that there is no special provision for women with physical disabilities in the hospital but preference is given to those with special needs during childbirth.
“Women with disability also access health care facilities made available for able-bodied women during maternity.
“In some hospitals, there are special considerations for less privileged individuals not only disabled women,” he added.
He further explained that even though there are no provisions for physically disabled women during childbirth, certain packages are readily available for them in terms of waiver or social sponsors.
“Special waiver (full or partial) is given to women during pregnancy in the form of health services and the physical disabilities are not excluded,” he averred.
Interactions with different medical personnel in hospitals and Primary Health Care Centers (PHC) across the Kano metropolis attest to the fact that there is no special policy or provision for these clusters of women during childbirth.
Experts say with the new Kano Disabilities Law 2022 as amended, it is believed that government will as a matter of urgency prioritize special provisions for pre, during, and post-delivery health policy for physically challenged women to meet up with the 2022 International day of persons with a disability theme: “Transformative solutions for inclusive development; the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.”