The Headley Trust supported St John Uganda’s Mother and Baby Programme with a two-year grant. One of the 33,000 beneficiaries reached through the grant is Jim. He told us his story.

“My name is Jim, I am 45 years old and a fisherman. I live in Butembe village together with my two wives. My first wife and I had nine children, but only seven survived. Unfortunately, one is disabled and the other one has a mental illness. My second wife gave birth to four children, amongst them twins.

All nine children from my first wife were delivered with the help of a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA). He was a long-standing friend of my family, and we all trusted him.

It was not even a consideration to attend ANC at the health centre or go there for delivery.

I remember a time when my first wife got pregnant and the TBA told her that the baby was standing in the womb – a condition that requires consultation and advise from a witch doctor, because she was likely to be bewitched. The witch doctor in our community advised that a number of charms had to be administered to un-do the witch craft, which had been instituted by my second wife. I had to provide a goat and a few chickens as a medium of communications to the gods for their intervention.

When my first wife was ready to deliver, I rushed her to the TBA, and she gave birth to twins. Unfortunately, both only survived a few hours. Rumours went across our community, saying that the spell from my second wife would have required a more complicated set of traditional charms.

There was a lot of fighting in my family and I separated from my first wife. Eventually my second wife got pregnant."

Jim meets St John Uganda's volunteers

One day, Jim came across a community education gathering, organised by St John.

"I heard volunteers talking about the health of mothers and children, and I learned that there are medical ways of preventing pregnancy related death and illness. It was interesting, because this was related to the situation my family and I were living in, and which have caused us to many troubles and pain.

St John Uganda's community volunteersAfter the meeting had ended, I approached the volunteers, and they visited my home the next day. We talked about pregnancy and safe delivery, and about the complications that may lead to the death of both mother and baby.

I decided to take my second wife for ANC to the nearest health center. The midwife advised us to go to the hospital for a scan as she felt something unusual with the pregnancy. At the hospital, they found out that we were expecting twins. We attended regular medical checks during my wife’s pregnancy, and she delivered two healthy twins at the health centre.

The healthy pregnancy let me reflect on what happened with my first wife before, and why we lost our babies. I realised that a lack of knowledge and the trust in the TBA were the cause of our misfortune, as the TBA could not tell us that my wife was expecting twins, but blamed her unwellness on a baby supposedly standing in her womb.

When the midwife of the health centre told us after the delivery that we need to come back to check on the health of our twins and for immunisation, it also brought back the memories of my disabled child, which suffered from polio. 

Today, I tell everyone around me how to support their wives during pregnancy, and that they should always go to ANC and deliver in a health facility. My family was almost destroyed because of the TBA and the witch doctor, but now we all use family planning, and if one of my wives gets pregnant again, we will start with ANC early enough and deliver the child in the health facility.

Read more about out Mother & Baby Programme