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International report

Nigeria's fight to persuade women to give birth in hospitals, not prayer houses

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Nigerian pilgrims in Bethlehem on December 24, 2012.
Nigerian pilgrims in Bethlehem on December 24, 2012. Reuters/Darren Whiteside

In Nigeria, a deeply religious country where many hold strong beliefs in spiritual powers, many expectant mothers prefer to give birth not in hospitals but in Christian prayer houses, where child delivery is not undertaken through standard medical practices but rather through prayers, fasting and the belief in miracles.

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The prayer houses, which are mostly run by unskilled birth attendants, have a high death rate among those who attend them. Now authorities are introducing spiritual practices in hospitals in an effort to take spiritually-minded pregnant women away from the prayer houses. But the prayer houses are fighting hard to keep their clients.

Sam Olukoya reports from Calabar, in southeast Nigeria.

 

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