A friend recently emailed me these questions:
Sounds like there are only 2 wives.....but with
11 children??? What is typical size of family....birth outcomes?
Family Planning???? How is health care/illness/prevention handled???
HOw much education have the women had? What about the 25 year old
brother. At what age do men usually marry? Do they have to have
land/house/furniture before they can marry?
So, to answer. In my compound, there are two brothers, each with one wife. One of the women has 7 children, the olther has 2 of her own and there are 3 from a previous wife who past away a while ago. So, yeah, 12 kids! That's definitely typical.
There are two clinics fairly close (the more comprehensive one is maybe 7k away), and because they are funded by UniCef, and others, the visits are only 5 delassi (the same price as a half kilo of sugar). A girl in village recently had a baby. She went to the clinic to have it instead of staying home, which I think is rare here, but she said the clinic was understaffed and she ended up having the baby ALONE! Total time, from the time she left to go to the clinic to the time she returned home with a new baby in her arms, about 5 hours. Crazy! I was totally shocked, she was sitting up in her house that evening! I made her eat bread with peanut butter (which they don't do here, pnut butter is for cooking). But the little baby is fine, healthy enough and not premature.
Many children get sick, I think it is malaria. I'm not sure about this yet, but in the rainy season I hear malaria can be very bad (they have malaria season like we have flu season). People do die fairly young, but the old people who DO live are in incredible shape! I have seen two "goiters" on people, which come from a lack of iodized salt. I've also seen osteoporosis, arthritis, the usual things. There are a lot of things I attribute to inbreeding- a surprising number of deaf people, crossed eyes, stuttering (is that ever genetic? I don't know).
Basic medicines are avaible at the clinics for around 5 - 10 delassi, like pain relief stuff, and ink as an antiseptic. But when my little sister got sick (coughing up blood, maybe an upper respiratory infection? no idea) she went all the way to a big city area for blood tests and a shot. My compound has the money to do this, because one of the brothers is employed by the government, paving the road. But most would definitely not be able to do that (the transport alone would have cost 80 D for 2 of them). Everyone still collects medinice from the forests, all kinds of leaves and barks which they usually seem to make into teas.
There is also a "marabout," a traditional doctor type guy- most of the animistic aspects of traditional medicine have been replaced with Muslim religious aspects. I went to his hut one night with some women, one of which had been having body aches. She blamed on her family planning medicine, and had stopped taking it. She was still experiencing pain, so the women explained that they were done with the clinic and they were going to take "medicine for black people!" The marabout's hut had lots of powders, leaves, ect...a bundle of horse hair. I was offered some medicine but declined (if body still can't totally handle their water and food, I should probably not push it)!
Anyway, so traditional medicine is still around, but is on the decline. Most women do NOT take birth control, even though it's available I think for free or for cheap. Most men prefer their wives to have as many children as possible, even though their resources are strained. I think maybe it's a sign of virility and power, and also it's just the way things have always been. Population control is something I really want to address, but it's a touchy subject.
Yes, men should have their own compound, or a place in a compound before they marry. They should have enough money to pay the dowry and have a house built (evenutally one for them, one for the wife and kids). My 25 year old brother is not married yet, I think partially because he's saving up.
That's all for now! Everything's great, super interesting. I will post later about my 24th birthday, the oddest and one of the best birthday's I've had! (: Take care