Delivering Health, Saving Lives

Delivering Health, Saving Lives

Halima Begum wailed through the night as she clutched her pregnant stomach. She was in labour, in pain, and in panic. Miles away from the nearest hospital, things took a turn for worse as she fainted from pain.

Monowara Khatun, 42, a local midwife, heard that Halima had fainted and rushed to her house with the “Midwife Kits” she got from the Upazila Parishad. A few hours later Halima’s baby was delivered but without Monowara, things could have been a lot worse.

Halima knows, only two years ago she lost her baby during childbirth.

Saving lives

Halima was lucky. She had the help of a trained midwife like Monowara which saved her from a potentially life-threatening birth at home.

Halima’s situation was dire, as all the public and private hospitals and clinics are located on other side of the river and crossing the mighty river Jamuna, which at some points is nine to 10 kilometres wide would be extremely hazardous, especially at night.

Waiting for more than three hours to get a boat to cross the river to reach at Upazila Sadar Medical Hospital on a cold November night, the labouring Halima gave birth to a dead child in the halfway across the river in 2012. When she reached the hospital, the doctors, after two hours of frantic efforts, somehow managed to save her life, but not the unborn baby.

But now this time around, Halima had the courageous Monowara, a trained midwife, who not only saved her life but that of her baby as well. Monowara was trained by a programme supported by Upazila Fiscal Facility (UFF) grants of Upazila Governance Project (UZGP).

Life-saving training

The Kazipur Upazila Parishad of Sirajganj district, one of the 14 pilot districts of UZGP, under a scheme titled “Training to the Community Midwives” provided a 12-day intensive training to the community midwives aimed at improving maternal services, lower maternal mortality rates and empower women in the area.

A total of 70 midwives, divided into two batches, took part in the training held at Rahaishuriber Aminadoulatzaman Manobsheba Hospital in Natuarpara Union Parishad. Under the scheme, the UNDP and UNCDF-supported UZGP has also provided all the participating midwives ‘Midwife Kit’ that contains essential equipments and supplies that can be used during the delivery at their community.

“It was between life and death to me. I was in panic that I would lose my life” said, Bulbuli, 25, who gave a healthy baby girl recently. “The danger of giving birth was real to me. I would have died also if the trained midwife is not there,” she added.

The UZGP, during its first year in 2013, provided a total of BDT 50 lakh to Kazipur Upazila as UFF grants. With the grants, the Upazila Parishad took 16 schemes focusing on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and pro-poor issues including education, health, poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

Out of total BDT 50 lakhs allocated, the Kazipur Upazila Parishad is spending BDT 5.20 lakh for the “Midwifery Training” to the community midwives which started yielding tremendous results–saving the lives of mothers and child.

“Medical services are very weak and access to, and utilization of, mother and children’s health services remains limited here. The scheme to train the midwives means a lot to the pregnant mothers here as it is saving their lives and their babies,” said Mr. Mozammel Haque Bakul Sarkar, Chairman of Kazipur UZP, justifying the scheme.

Remote areas report show disproportionately higher rates of maternal death than urban areas since they lack infrastructure and distances to services centres are far. According to UZP sources, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) of Kazipur Upazila Parishas was 276 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 whereas the country MMR rate was 194.

No woman should die giving life

Coming down from dais after receiving certificate after attending the 12-day midwifery training, Rabeya Khatun of Natuarpara Union Parishad, said, “Now I am more confident to help other women deliver their children safely. I will also teach them hygienic practices.”

“We will definitely let no women die for giving life,” Nurunnahar Begum, another midwife, who took the training in first batch, said, confidently.

Lauding the UZGP for providing financial support to the scheme, Mr. Shafiul Islam, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Kazipur UZP, said, “It’s a great help to us in fulfilling our mission to reduce maternal and child mortality. Kazipur UZP is one of pockets that is still lagging behind the country in achieving these two important goals.

The UZGP, during its first year in 2013, has already disbursed first tranche of its fiscal grants amounting BDT 17.5 m to seven UZPs under seven pilot districts for implementing 89 pro-poor and MDG-focused schemes. The grants are being used by the UZPs as additional financial resources, which complements its Annual Development Plan (ADP) grant received from national budget for implementing the schemes.

The UZGP has been commissioned as part of the overall programme framework of UNDP and UNCDF support to the Government of Bangladesh to make the UZPs more effective, functional and service-oriented local government institutions. It is being supported by the European Union (EU), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by the Local Government Division (LGD).