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20 October 2021 - Story


In Jaijai village, Tarbaj Sub County, we find a group of around 30 male community members sitting under a tree listening keenly to a small radio. Being broadcasted, are prerecorded health messages on family planning, translated to the local Somali dialect.

When the broadcast ends, Ahmed Mohamed, 42, their Community Health Volunteer (CHV) takes them through pictorials which contain drawings demonstrating the different methods of family planning.

To make it more relatable, the CHV uses a different analogy. He explains to the pastoralists how they regularly use animal husbandry which is a controlled method of breeding, especially during the dry season. This way, they understand better.

During the dry season like now, our animals do not get enough pasture and water. Therefore, they become very weak. We cannot allow them to mate and reproduce because they are not healthy. The young ones will not have much to eat which puts them at risk of death, he explains.

To prevent this, the pastoralists use something termed as a buck apron.  The buck wears an apron made of leather, canvas, or other suitable material when it is not required for mating. When it is time for mating, the apron is either removed or twisted round.

The same thing applies to our women, when they give birth consecutively, our children do not have enough time to breastfeed. This means that the children will not get enough nutrients from breastmilk consequently leading to malnutrition, he explains.  

Religious leaders are a vital part of these Barazas and they use citations from the holy Quran and hadith to show on the permissibility of Islam in using modern methods of child spacing for the couples who can’t depend on natural methods.

Ibrahim Noor, a sheikh and a duksi teacher for 6 years now attends the male Barazas so as to address and dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding child spacing.

We religious leaders are drivers and influencers of health seeking behavior. We encourage child spacing and proper breastfeeding of children for up to 2years which is beneficial to the health of the baby as well as the mother. To achieve this, we encourage the community members to adopt child spacing methods, says Noor.

Save the Children recognizes the importance of male involvement in addressing maternal and new-born health issues, particularly child spacing.

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children has partnered with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Centre for Behavior Change Communication on the Nomadic Health Project (NHP) to dispel myths and misconceptions about contraceptives in such communities and increase use of quality family planning (FP) services among nomadic and semi-nomadic populations in Kenya.

One of the ways we are implementing the project is through the male engagement barazas which aim to bring together men within the community to discuss important maternal and new-born health issues including: child spacing, pregnancy care, childcare, nutrition and hygiene.

While the primary focus of NHP is on the use of FP, due to the marginalized nature of the target community and the limited access to any form of healthcare, formative research demonstrated the importance of providing integrated health services. NHP is working with the county departments of health to increase access to primary reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) services for nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists including access to contraception, by establishing community health units (CHUs) to deliver basic health services at community level.

Cover Photo: Ahmed Mohamed,42, a Community Health Volunteer demonstrating different methods of family planning to male community members in Jaijai village, Tarbaj sub-county. Photo: Marion Kwambai, Save the Children.

Story by Marion Kwambai