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Regional News of Friday, 28 August 2015

Source: Cameroon Tribune

North West: Unusual birth of conjoined twins raises heated discussions

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The North West Region, the land of traditional chiefs known as Fons and home to people deeply rooted in their traditions, has in recent years been in the news following the birth of three sets of conjoined or Siamese twins. The parents of the children, all alive, are from Kwighe-Babanki Tungo in Mezam Division, Luh in Donga-Mantung Division and Mbissa-Bambalang, in Ngoketunjia Division.

Bearing children according to the traditions of the North West people immortalizes parents and not having them could be considered a curse. The burden, however, is on women because they give life and are seen to protect it. This is perhaps why in some cultures a woman who dies without a child is buried with a stone in her palm, indicating that she is going to the world beyond the way she came after failing to multiply.

In effect, the concept of fertility is very important amongst the people of the Grass fields. Yet, the birth of abnormal children in the process of immortalizing self is considered a curse by many.

Senior Anthropologist and Social Scientist, Prof. Paul Nkwi says, “Abnormal children require special care because it is not known from which world they came. Tradition says some of them are shrouded in special rituals that seek to appease their being alive while others claim that they represent an ancestor or a spirit which has taken that form.” In effect, physical deformities in kids or new born babies are a big problem and are often seen to be curses in some North West traditions. The claim has not spared the three pairs of conjoined twins in Kwighe, Luh and Bambalang.

From the look of things, the people of the North West Region were not familiar with conjoined twins prior to February 2006 when the first known living conjoined twins were born as the 9th and 10th children into the families of James and Emerencia Ngong in Kwighe- Babanki-Tungo. The news shocked health staff of the local Kwighe Baptist Health Centre and attracted the media and the population who rushed to discover what they considered a strange birth. The government was concerned and churches prayed while the parents of Akumbo Shavoboh Precious and Akumbo Shambom Blessing remained confused, ashamed and uncertain about what next to do.

Reports from Kwighe revealed that nobody wanted or could have reasonably advised the parents to keep the pair of “ill-fated” children and to handle the situation would have required the special traditional services of the palace. Fortunately for the children, eliminating them at birth was not an option since they were born in a Christian health facility where life is highly valued.

The good news is that the Kwighe pair was later separated free of charge in the King Abdul-Aziz Medical City Hospital in Saudi Arabia. Nine years on, Shavoboh and Shambom are Cameroonians like all others as they pursue primary education at the Kwighe Islamic Primary School. According to Nchi Angelbetha, Head of the Kwighe Baptist Health Centre, the children now use colostomy bags and prosthetic legs to move around, crawl, stool and urinate.

Away from Kwighe, the Banso Baptist Hospital, BBH, on August 27, 2014 delivered another pair of male conjoined twins via caesarean sections at 38 weeks gestation. Dr George Ngock, the then Head of Surgery at BBH reported that the babies share a common umbilical cord with separate heads, genitals and hearts, but common intestines.

As at press time, the parents, Eveline and Julius Banla Ndi from Luh, Ndu Subdivision in Donga-Mantung Division, were still seeking assistance to get the babies separated abroad. For now, Davis and Darrel are still in the care of the Chantal Biya Fondation in Yaounde. On the other hand, Feout Sena and Zieh Asana are the most recent pair of conjoined twins who were born August 13, 2015 in Bambalang, Ngoketunjia Division. The all-female babies are joined at the abdomen.

They have separate legs, heads, hands and sexual organs. Their 18-year- old mother, Safuretou Arrieplotoyap and 23-year-old father, Ismaila Zunki, both from Mbissa Island in Bambalang, now spend sleepless nights in prayers for required funds to surgically separate them.

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