Less than half large African facilities respect right of mother to have birth companion (except in Madagascar)

birth companion

Researchers have looked at the quality of maternal health care in 1,342 large maternal health centres in five countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda and United Republic of Tanzania. They rated care via 10 factors based on the Respectful Maternity Care Charter produced by the White Ribbon Alliance. Researchers spent 2-3 days in each facility.

One of the rights specified in the Respectful Maternity Care Charter is “respect for her choices and preferences, including companionship during maternity care”. The proportion of facilities that provided encouragement to women to have a companion with them was as follows:

Ethiopia: 34%
Kenya: 38%
United Republic of Tanzania: 40%
Rwanda: 43%
Madagascar: 67%

The form of disrespect most commonly reported by women was abandonment and neglect, something that is much easier to overcome if there is a companion present.

The research that we recently reported on from Ghana showed that women link quality of service with good treatment of family/companions.


Rosen HE, Lynam PF, Carr C, Reis V, Ricca J, Bazant ES & Bartlett LA (2015), Direct observation of respectful maternity care in five countries: a cross-sectional study of health facilities in East and Southern Africa, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth

Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia. Creative Commons.