A New Life Signals New Hope in a Quake-stricken Community
What makes Sidra special is not just that she is the first surviving child of Farzana Bibi (who lost her first born, a boy, soon after the delivery), but that she is the first baby to be delivered in the maternity room established by the International Rescue Committee at the Rural Health Center in Danna, Muzaffarabad.
“The world suddenly seems so beautiful to me,” exclaims Farzana. “It’s definitely the beginning of new life.” She recalls her previous experience of childbirth. “A year back, I had a son, and he died soon after he was born. This time I didn’t want to risk my child’s life at the hands of an untrained midwife, so I sought out the IRC labor room.”
The IRC started its reproductive health care program at the center last February. Initially, the staff dealt with general patients, but word of mouth prompted 43 prenatal mothers to register within a span of five days. Creating awareness in the community about primary health care and reproductive health is an integral part of IRC’s mission.
“It has been a big achievement and a happy moment for us,” says Zeenat Begum, mother-and-child supervisor who helped deliver baby Sidra. In addition to its expert medical staff, the clinic provides free checkups, free medicine and free pre- and postnatal services
“Well over 300 prenatal mothers have registered with us, and all of them would like to deliver their babies in the IRC labor room,” adds Shaheen Kausar, senior reproductive health supervisor. “This is just the beginning.”
Though located in an old building with noticeable cracks produced by the earthquake, the center’s maternity room has all necessary facilities for safe and successful deliveries. Complicated cases are referred to bigger hospitals in Muzaffarabad, says Dr. Gul Nawaz, IRC medical officer.
“Unhygienic delivery methods and infant mortality compelled women to deliver their children at the Danna center,” says Dr. Nawaz, “Also, the amount charged by the local midwives for the delivery was unaffordable for the community, especially after the earthquake when the majority of families lost their livelihoods. The IRC maternity room was a relief to expecting mothers.”
The IRC plans to expand the maternity room into an emergency obstetric center.