Socio-cultural factors that influence child Survival in Nyang'oma sub-location, Bondo district
Ouma, Jerusha A
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This study examined socio-cultural factors affecting child survival in Nyang'oma Sub-location, Bondo District. Specifically, the study set out to investigate how mothers' perceptions of common childhood illnesses (malaria, measles and diarrhea); cultural practices (like polygyny, chira and evil eye); and maternal formal education influence child survival in the district. The methods used in obtaining data included focus group discussions, key informant interviews, in-depth interviews, survey technique, narratives and direct observation. The data obtained were analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods and the results interpreted based on the cultural reproduction theory. The study findings showed that apart from measles, mothers' perceptions of malaria and diarrhoea were fairly consistent with the scientific facts about the diseases. The mothers believed that measles was caused by evil spirits and therefore the disease could only be treated using traditional therapy. Due to its fatal nature, measles was greatly feared while malaria was perceived as a mild infection that could easily be treated. Diarrhoea associated with teething in children was perceived as a normal process of growth and as a result, no treatment was given unless signs of severity were observed. The practice of polygyny was found to negatively impact on the health of children in the area under study. Subdivision of resources within polygynous families made the resources too scarce to adequately provide for the basic needs of the children. Polygyny, therefore, increased poverty to .~ the families in question. Practices associated with the cultural concepts of chira and the evil eye (juog wang') were also found to lower children's cha..nces of survival through delayed treatment seeking process. The study findings further revealed that maternal formal education was an important factor that contributed to high chances of child survival through a number of ways. Apart from economic empowerment, the educated mothers were more informed about factors that generally enhance the health of children. The study recommends that the government and other agencies like the NGOs supporting child survival intervention:yrograms should assist the local mothers in dealing with malaria, measles and diarrhoea in children. Health education on the appropriate recognition and management of these common childhood illnesses WDuld be ideal. In addition, mothers' economic empowerment and emphasis on girls' education beyond primary school would enhance child survival.