Early in my sojourn as Dr. Know, I had written about the ubiquitous, diverse and amoebic amalgam of women classed as Mama Yard.
But the legend of Mama Yard and their impact on the general well being and health of their immediate community bears repeating.
If you live in the high brow, low population density part of town, forget it, you don’t know these legends.
They are females, nearly always in their 50s and beyond and have lived in the ‘yard’ since nineteen kiridim.
No one seems to know their birth names since they are always Mama Somebody.
Their names are as diverse as they come. You hear names like Mama Emeka, Mama Gloria, Mama Lucky and the likes.
They are often assertive, in charge of every situation and brook no resistance from anybody.
The Mama Yard is a jack of all trade and master of all or master of none depending on your school of thought.
She is a doctor, nurse and pharmacist and wears the diverse caps as expedient.
Let’s start with a description of the abode of a Mama Yard. The ‘yard’ is usually ‘a-face-me-I-face-you’ building with a commonly shared kitchen, bathrooms and toilet facilities.
There would, on the average, be at least 10 families in the yard and the total population can be anything from 20-40 including children.
Cleaning the yard and the shared conveniences is rostered amongst the households and the Mama Yard ensures the roster is followed religiously.
So how does the Mama Yard affect the health indices of the children in the compound?
Plenty… I go tell you in the words of the Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Imagine this scenario:
A sick child begins to convulse in the compound and suddenly, the Mama Yard takes over.
Her management plan begins with forcing a spoon into the mouth of the child to prevent the upper and lower rows of teeth from clenching.
If they do clench together, the belief is that the child will die. After that, a mixture of onions and scent leaves are squeezed into the eyes, then crude oil is rubbed all over the child’s body or if there is none readily available, palm kernel oil is used.
These items are believed to be able to ward off the evil spirits causing the convulsion.
Abi don’t you know crude oil is mystical?
Then the coup de grace of the convulsion continues.
The child’s feet in put over an open fire and they will tell you that this is guaranteed to make the stubborn demon flee.
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Is the child having diarrhoea?
Another easy one for Mama Yard…..Start with half cooked akamu.
If the child is weak, ‘spirit drink’ spiced with salt is the koko.
No obvious relief?
Thalazole, Septrin, Tertacycline or Flagyl are called into battle. Mama Yard has spoken and she is ‘She who must be obeyed’.
A young mother comes home from the hospital with the newborn baby and Mama Yard leads the welcome party.
She leads in the singing and dancing and then holds court and in her capacity as ‘her imperial’ majesty, orders are issued, and obeyed, I dare add.
The colostrum which is essential for the baby and which is the first milk that flows must be squeezed out and discarded.
The reason?…it is dirty. Baby’s stomach must be washed out with a mixture of warm water spiced with bitter cola.
And finally, the baby must be fed water to test run the integrity of the stomach before breastfeeding commences.
Forget all the instructions by health professionals in the hospital.
What do they really know? Here in the yard, Mama Yard is both the principality and the power.
And if breast milk is not flowing well, Mama Yard’s antidote is a generous intake of bottles of fresh palm wine and (or) odeku... If you don’t know what odeku is, biko ask google.
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Every fever that does not respond to ‘malaria and typhoid’ drugs in Mama Yard’s medical encyclopedia must be measles.
To confirm it, bath the child with sand and if it’s measles, the rash will be forced to appear by fire, by force.
But truth be told; Mama Yard is not wicked. She means well, though her actions can worsen the child’s condition.
She only wants to help. Think about it… the Mama Yard is a key opinion leader within her area of influence.
Training her and making her more knowledgeable can impact on health indices.
So all Mama Yards out there, why not form a street association and elect both your L.G.A chairpersons and state chairpersons but please, no writing of results in the landlord’s room oh!
Twaale for Her Excellency, the Mama Yard.