Letters

Empowering people.

It is with interest that I have been reading your magazine, Footsteps.  It is indeed a thought-provoking paper aimed at creating a sense of communion with others, thus empowering people to listen to others in a variety of ways within the wholeness of creation.

Gabriel J Bagui, URTNA Family Health Broadcast Project, Nairobi, Kenya

In the dark

I am working as a nutritionist in Western Ethiopia and am always interested to read your publication in order to get new ideas for our work here.  Since the beginning of 1989 I have been assessing local nutrition-related problems and trying to find solutions.  While reading your article about traditional beliefs during childbirth in rural Peru, I realised that we have some similar problems here.

Here women stay in bed in a dark room after childbirth for at least two weeks.  In this culture we even see a special advantage for the women to get some rest and attention.  The neighbouring women will come and bring food in turn.  The work-load of a woman in the country is so high that we appreciate this culture.  The biggest problem is that the baby often doesn’t get enough sunshine because people are afraid of the evil spirits outside.  The child is always totally covered while being carried outside, and the women prefer to leave them at home when they go to the field or market place.

Veronika Scherbaum, PO Box 56, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Cooked tree seeds!

In Footsteps No.5 on Forestry, the middle pages contained information on establishing tree nurseries.  In order to encourage certain tree seeds with hard coats to germinate, readers were recommended to soak some seeds overnight in very hot water.  Readers might think that the water should be kept warm all night, which would not help either the seeds or their firewood supply!  The seeds should be placed in hot water, which is then allowed to cool.

Dr Julian Evans

Knotty Problems

Anastausia was counting the days until her baby would be born. Would it be a boy? A fine son to give her husband? Her mother kept watching to see signs of the pains starting. Was that one? She thought it was, perhaps not. There! Another one. But so few, with so long in between them.

The baby moved within her as if to say ‘I’m alright’. Her mother sighed and left the hut. Two hours later she returned. ‘I’ve been to see the medicine man’ she said. ‘Chew this root - the pains will come and your son will be born’.

Anastausia chewed the root. The more she chewed, the more the pain came. The baby kicked her - did he not like the pain? But soon he would be born, her son, her husband’s first-born. She chewed, the pain increased and the baby stopped kicking - had he gone to sleep? Then the pain suddenly got worse. Could she bear it? Everything was going black.

They carried her to the hospital. The doctor spoke to her husband. The medicine she had chewed from the medicine-man was too strong. The womb had burst, the baby was dead. She must operate on Anastausia to remove the baby and stop the bleeding. He and his brother must give blood, otherwise Anastausia too might die.

They gave blood, the baby was removed and given to his father, his firstborn son, dead before he had ever lived.

This is a true story sent in by Dr Heather-Louise Williamson who worked in Western Kenya. Can readers help with solutions to the difficulties of working in an area where both the medical doctor and medicine man or witch-doctor are often tried out in turn?