It is high time the government passed a law to ban prayer camps from interfering in maternal healthcare delivery in the country.
This is because the activities of most prayer camps are inimical to maternal healthcare delivery in general and antenatal care in particular. The situation is seemingly worse in rural areas than in urban settlements.
If care is not taken, this phenomenon will contribute significantly to the country’s inability to attain the Sustainable Development Goal Three (SDG3) by 2030 just as Ghana failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals Four and Five (MDG 4&5) in 2015.
It is without disputation that maternal healthcare delivery provides for the health needs of the pregnant mother and her unborn baby simultaneously.
The need for antenatal care (ANC) is physical rather than spiritual, hence ANC should not be handled by a spiritual centre such as a prayer camp.
According to the Bible (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6), the same God gives different kinds of talents, services and works to different people to serve humanity.
Suffice to say that the same God is at work in the medics and prayer camp managers.
Hospital vs prayer camp
Whereas medics are gifted, trained and mandated to provide various kinds of health care to the people, those managing prayer camps also have the gift of handling spiritual matters. As such, prayer camps must stay away from clinical conditions such as pregnancy complications.
A prayer camp as the name denotes is a camp for prayers and not an antenatal clinic. Sadly, most prayer camps habitually diagnose medical problems as spiritual problems. Accordingly, they advise their clients against seeking medical care and later the situation becomes worse, leading to preventable deaths.
It is thus not strange that Wikipedia defines prayer camps as “religious institutions which serve as alternatives to hospitals in Ghana and Togo for a variety of ailments. They used methods such as chaining patients and fasting.”
Some prayer camps even ask pregnant mothers to fast and drink “holy oil” and this eventually worsens the health condition of pregnant women.
On November 4, 2017, for example, modernghana.com reported that some pregnant women in New Juaben municipality of the Eastern Region preferred a “holy” palm nut soup at a prayer camp in Koforidua to attending antenatal clinics.
One wonders how a “holy” palm nut soup can address danger signs in pregnancy such as bleeding, foetal distress, oligohydramnios, pre-eclampsia, malpresentations or even ectopic pregnancy.
It is equally trite knowledge that other prayer camps vigorously massage the abdomen of pregnant women, causing foetal distress and detachment of the placenta from the baby.
This occurrence of detached placenta from the baby is clinically referred to as abruptio placentae, which is a serious pregnancy complication, and it specifically occurs when the placenta detaches from the inner wall of the womb before delivery, depriving the unborn baby of oxygen and nutrients.
One may assert that prayer camps cause more harm to pregnant women and unborn babies than help them.
Regarding prayer camp managers massaging the abdomen of pregnant women, a rhetorical question is worth asking.
What is the business of a prayer camp in touching the abdomen of a pregnant woman with the aim of making the baby sit well in the uterus?
According to medical literature, depending on the degree of placental separation and how close the baby is to full term, treatment for abruptio placentae may include bed rest or a Caesarean Section (CS) to forestall fatality.
In most cases, without a swift and an appropriate clinical intervention, abruptio placentae can be harmful to both the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
Apart from underlying health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, trauma and abdominal injury or stress can separate or detach the placenta from the foetus, hence the massaging of a pregnant woman's abdomen by a prayer camp manager can be dangerous for both the baby and the pregnant mother.
To my mind, ignorance makes some pregnant women prefer a prayer camp to a hospital for ANC.
In Hosea 4:6, the Bible says: "For lack of knowledge, my people perish."
Advisedly, therefore, pregnant women should seek ANC from antenatal clinics located in hospitals and desist from seeking such care at prayer camps which offer nothing but preventable maternal deaths and stillbirths.
Some prayer camps equally satanise antenatal care and Caesarean sections and accordingly, put fear in pregnant women to discourage them from seeking maternal health care in hospitals.
It should not be lost on prayer camp managers that even in the Bible, Rachel (a wife of Jacob) was delivered by a Midwife when she was in labour, giving birth to Benjamin her last-born child (Genesis 35: 15-17).
Mindful of the dangerous consequences of turning prayer camps into antenatal clinics, I dare suggest that the government should pass a law that bans such camps from providing medical care of any sort, let alone attend to pregnant women.
Perhaps in the interim, the Medical and Dental Council should sanction quack medics who practise under the cover of prayer camps.
The prayer camps make the work of the hospitals difficult because the former contribute to preventable maternal deaths in the country.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection also has a role to play because the living conditions at some of the prayer camps leave much to be desired. The right to health care is a fundamental human right.
The women who patronise the prayer camps should equally be guided by Hosea 4:6 to say no to certain dictates of prayer camps.
By this way, the lack of knowledge will not lead to the death of such pregnant women and their unborn babies.