Wahakura - a Māori solution for tamariki safety

By Kawe Roes

Māori health providers have gathered in Auckland to kick off the first of four wānanga across the country about wahakura woven flax bassinets and how whānau can make them part of their daily lives.  

Those at the wānanga say Māori need to return to the ways of the elders to stop Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI). 

Hāpai Te Hauora spokesperson, Hinerangi Rhind-Wiri says, "This type of death affects many Māori whānau.  50 babies die every year but about 30 of those babies are Māori dying this way." 

Wahakura have made a resurgence as Māori weavers join the fight against the high mortality rate amongst Māori infants.

Maori midwife, Koha Aperehama says, "There are many Māori babies dying while they sleep, so the idea came about to find a way where babies can sleep in safety and that's where the wahakura idea came about."

Māori health providers say wahakura are helping to reduce SUDI deaths, "We're seeing good results with the statistics coming down of Māori dying from [SUDI] but we need to support wahakura and look into ourselves for the solution to stop this," says Rhind-Wiri.

The hope is for all Māori whānau to have tangible access to wahakura nationwide.

"It's hard to carry this idea, there are funding issues and other health providers not believing in it, in these beds to look after our babies.  But we have yet to be able to get a wahakura to all Māori whānau for their babies," says Aperehama. 
After Auckland, the wānanga is off to Rotorua and it will finish up in the South Island.