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Western and traditional medicines approach each other in vertical birth

The Agreement promoting the convergence of Western and traditional health systems for traditional childbirth is signed

QUITO, August 8.  In the framework of the Agenda for Indigenous Children and Adolescents, which was drawn up with the participation of 4,300 children and adolescents and 2,700 leaders and teachers of the country’s 13 Indigenous Nations and 14 Native Peoples, the process of implementing the Agenda’s health and nutrition component has started up with various events being held to facilitate a dialogue on knowledge about traditional childbirth.

This practice, which brings together ancestral knowledge and wisdom passed on from generation to generation in indigenous communities, is a cultural manifestation full of symbols and rites and takes place in the vertical position in a festive family environment, where the mother and child are the focus of attention.

The dialogue of knowledge took place with 200 rural physicians from the Community Health Certification Program, faculty directors and teachers of the Medical School of the Central University of Ecuador, public officials from the Standardization Process and the Intercultural Medicine Subprocess of the Ministry of Public Health, leaders, midwives and yachaks of the Indigenous Nations and Peoples, international cooperation agencies, prominent television, radio, and newspaper reporters, and various institutional players.

The outcome of these working sessions was the signing of an Agreement between the Confederation of the Peoples of the Kichwa Nation of Ecuador (Confederación de Pueblos de la Nacionalidad Kichwa del Ecuador—ECUARUNARI), the Ministry of Public Health, the Medical School of the Central University of Ecuador, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  

The Agreement recognizes the scientific validity of traditional childbirth and the complementary nature of traditional and Western health systems, in a relationship marked by respect and the benefits that each system can bring to the other.  The Cesarean section approach of the Western health system to tackle childbirth complications and the greater ease being offered by the mother’s vertical position in traditional childbirth so that the child’s head can cross the pelvic threshold are examples of the complementariness that both systems can benefit from, with a favorable outcome for both the mother and the child at the time of delivery.

This process has been marked by two major achievements:  the commitment made by the Medical School of the Central University of Ecuador to include traditional childbirth in its curriculum to train undergraduate and graduate students and the commitment by the Ministry of Public Health to issue standards for traditional childbirth for its application in the public health system.

It is expected that these breakthroughs shall contribute to increasing the access of indigenous mothers to health services, as these mothers are requiring higher-quality service and respect for their cultural customs and practices.  It is hoped that it will contribute to reducing maternal mortality, which at present is estimated to be 78 per 100,000 live births.

This prejudice-free convergence of both sides does not intend to promote the incorporation of community knowledge into scientific medical practice nor does it aim at “westernizing” traditional medicine.  It strives to foster the coexistence of both to serve as the basis for improvements in society.  The agreements that were reached regarding traditional childbirth shall be the groundwork for intercultural agreements in other areas.  




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