Hari Maya decides to go the birthing centre
Hari Maya (26) gave birth to her fourth child, a boy in the early hours of the morning in Saurahawa PHCC (Primay Health Care Centre). She went into labour late at night and her husband and three of his friends from the village carried her for over an hour to the birthing centre on Khatiya (wooden bed post with jute lining).
When she was three months pregnant, she consulted her female community health volunteer Mathura. She gave Hari Maya a birth preparedness package which consists of a key chain which has a small book with messages on pregnancy, safe delivery, and nutrition. Hari Maya recalls, “This pregnancy was unlike my other three pregnancies, during which I never had any problem. I didn’t feel well through out but my FCHV helped me a lot.” Hari Maya followed Mathura’s advice took a lot of care during the pregnancy, taking her vitamins and irons on time, getting tetanus vaccination, going for four mandatory check ups and learning all she could about pregnancy and safe delivery. Mathura visited her often and made sure Hari Maya and her husband Karna was taking good care.
When Hari Maya was brought into the birthing centre at around midnight, her FCHV Mathura rushed to her side. Though FCHVs are not supposed to deliver a baby, Mathura stayed with Hari Maya inside the labour room, helping her through her labour. When the baby was finally born, she checked the baby’s weight, made sure that the baby was well and helped her feed the baby.
Hari Maya and Karna who have three children waiting for them at home Laxmi, 9, Arjun, 7, and Ganesh, 2, decided to name the baby Bivek, which means knowledge in Nepali. Resting after the sleepless nights, Hari Maya and her husband Karna look relieved. Karna says, “We didn’t believe this baby will survive but we took her (Mathura’s) advice and came to deliver the baby at the centre. They also gave us a woollen cap and a wrap for the baby!”
Hari Maya interrupted him, “I had my first three children at home, and either he or I would cut the umbilical cord. This time I was scared. She (Mathura) told me that I should not carry any heavy load and eat well. She also encouraged us to come to the birthing centre. I am happy I had my baby here. This place is much safer.”
Mathura who turned 50 this year has been a female community health volunteer for over twenty years. Married when still in high school, she had her first baby at 17. She was in labour for seven days and there was no one to help. She recalls, “I still do not know how I survived, how my baby survived.” Inspired by her own difficult child birth, she decided to become a volunteer. Women rush to her for advice on child birth, pregnancy, child care and family planning. Women come to her with their sick children and she treats them if she can or sends them to health facility. Women trust her.
For Mathura, this is her calling. She was with Hari Kumari at 5 in the morning when Bibek was born and later in the evening, she went to her house about an hour’s walk away for a post natal visit to ensure that the baby and the mother was doing well. FCHVs like Mathura bring care closer to the community.
Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives programme trained over 800 FCHVs like Mathura in Bardya district in which it is helping the government to pilot community based newborn care package training. Female Community Health Volunteers are a backbone of maternal and newborn care in the community and exist all over the country. With three to four newborns dying every hour in Nepal and one of the highest neonatal mortality rates in the world with 33 deaths per 1,000 live births, SNL programme aims to reduce neonatal mortality with simple but life saving solutions. Despite facing numerous odds, Nepal is on track to meet MDG goal of reducing deaths of children under 5 by 2/3 by 2015 despite a myriad of odds.