Many of you have followed the Nepal series of posts over the last month or so about David’s trip to some isolated rural mountain villages to assist Binod with his project to heighten awareness of the need for better maternal health. Some of you have asked what were the underlying reasons for taking on this project. In this next lot of posts, we’ll explore the answers to that and the outcomes we hope to achieve. I’ll add some of David’s photos from the villages as we go. Today’s photos are of some of the women and their children … some of the ones who are at the heart of this project in the villages.
A healthy happy Australian mother and baby
In most communities, anywhere, the birth of a baby is held to be a precious event… a new life to be treasured… as it is in my own family (photo above). For those of us in our “developed western societies”, most births can be and are celebrated with anticipation and joy by parents, grandparents, friends and family. For most pregnancies, the new Mum will have had the knowledge and the opportunity to be cared for by professionals, before, during and after birth. Both mother and child have a good chance of going on to lead healthy lives. But this outcome is not the case for many women in the “less developed countries” of the world.
In general, the health situation for the women of Nepal is poor with maternal mortality being amongst the highest in Asia and one of the worst ten recorded in the world. That’s beginning to be addressed in the large urban areas of Nepal such as Kathmandu but in the rural areas, maternal mortality is at least double the national rate in Nepal… and probably much more. Many maternal and baby deaths occur at home in the village and many of those deaths go unrecorded. The little one above is one of the lucky ones.
In preparing for this project, Binod noted some of the factors that lead to this poor record of maternal and infant mortality, including; maternal age, birth spacing, malnutrition, poverty, lack of literacy and lack of knowledge about the reasons for problems associated with pregnancy. Health care and information are out of reach of most women in isolated rural areas.
The aim of the project is to educate the whole community so that far fewer women and babies die in child birth and so that many more women can enjoy healthy children and have good health themselves.
Most village women have little or no control over their pregnancy outcomes. In rural Nepal, when a woman marries she leaves her family and village to live with her husband and in-laws. And it’s the mothers-in-law who make the decisions about the daughter-in-law’s pregnancy related issues. So part of this project was to educate the older women of the need for better care and ways in which they could better help the younger women. Many of these older women really appreciated this intervention…and just wished it had come when they were younger and of child bearing age themselves. Many sad stories were told.
Older women are being encouraged to enjoy becoming Grandmothers and to enjoy their grandchildren… and many, like this lady, do just that.
A quizzical look from this little one… David would have been the first white person he had seen and the camera pointing his way was probably a new experience, too. And no, he hasn’t bumped his head… the red mark is the result of washed off traditional “tika”.
Part of the intervention program was to encourage men to be more aware of the needs of a pregnant woman… and for fathers and grandfathers to take a pro active role to pay for the help needed by a pregnant woman and to take a role with the children as they grow. For, although the older women can play their part, it is the men who hold the purse strings and make the financial decisions. If a pregnant woman is not working in the fields or grinding flour etc, she’s not adding to the family coffers; going to have pre natal and ante natal care in the towns below costs both time and money; medical intervention costs money. So it’s important for all members of the family to have much greater knowledge and understanding of a pregnant woman’s needs.
As you can see from this photo, the intervention was well received by all generations.
So it is for women of child bearing age, like this one, that the project was begun… and it will continue by being a model of working with and for rural communities to provide much needed knowledge, to work towards changing unsupportive cultural practices and, in the long run, to provide better professional maternal care for women. That’s the dream!!!!!
David, Binod and Jennie
All photographs copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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