Wednesday 17 April 2024


Caesarean Sections were performed in Africa long before they were standardized across the world. They were invented in Africa long before Europe, and the rest of the world fully mastered how to conduct them. The procedure is said to have been started since time immemorial. When a baby could not be delivered vaginally, midwives and surgeons would turn to C-sections in order to deliver the baby safe and alive. In areas around Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, midwives and surgeons would perform this procedure.

So when a baby could not be delivered vaginally, the midwives and surgeons would sedate the mother in labour with a lot of banana wine. A knife would be sterilized using heat, while the mother would be tied to the bed for her safety. An incision would be made quickly by a team, and the quickness was to ensure that there would be no excessive loss of blood, and also that other organs would not be cut. A conflation of sterilized knives which are sharp and the sedation would make the experience less painful for the mother.

During these times women rarely developed infections because antiseptic tinctures and salves were used to clean the area and stitches were applied. Shock and excessive blood loss were uncommon. Uganda, Tanzania and DRC were the countries where this was most practised; and in Uganda, C sections were normally performed by a team of male healers, but in Tanzania and DRC, they were typically done by female midwives.

It was in the Ugandan kingdom of Bunyoro that this procedure was most documented. The procedure was performed well such that Robert W. Felkin, a Scottish medical anthropologist documented all of this in the book, The Development of Scientific Medicine in the African Kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara. He witnessed the procedure in 1879 and was captivated by it. What got his attention was that back in Europe, a C-section was considered to be an option only to be used in the most of desperate situations. At this time, "nearly half of European and US women died in childbirth, and nearly 100% of European women died if a C section was performed."


(1). “Notes on Labour in Central Africa” by British explorer Robert W. Felkin; published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1884.

(2). “Cesarean Section: The History and Development of the Operation From Early Times” by J.H. Young; published by H.K. Lewis, London, 1944.

(3). “The development of scientific medicine in the African Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara” by J.N.P. Davies; published in Cambridge Journals Medical History, 1959.

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