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Nurse Midwives Bring New Life to Villages

© UNICEF India/2011/Graham Crouch
Sanju Kaim, 24, has delivered about 200 babies last year and she is just one of dozens of young midwives striving to make a difference in Madhya Pradesh, where the infant and maternal mortality rates have long been among the highest in India.

By Diana Coulter
 
JHAGAR, India, 8 March 2011 - 
Nurse-midwife Sanju Kaim got a little bonus on her first day on the job. That morning she delivered not one baby girl, but twins. She was alone in the maternity ward, having just reported for her first day of duty as an auxillary nurse midwife in Jhagar village’s small health centre.

“When she arrived she was quite afraid but now she is happy and is taking things well,” Niranjana says of the girl. The young nurse-midwife speaks with the authority of someone who has already delivered at least 600 babies.

She was a bit nervous. Just 23, she had worked only briefly before as a beauty parlour attendant. But now here she was, responsible for the health and well-being of young mothers who would rely on her to bring new life into the world.
 
“I knew I had studied hard to be a midwife and was well-prepared to do this job,” Sanju recalls. “But I admit that I was surprised that day.”
 
A heavily pregnant woman arrived in the ‘Janani Express’ (Maternity Express), the district’s free mini-van service available 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. The mother had already been bouncing along rural backroads for almost an hour, travellingfrom the village of Ratanagar, about 20 kilometers away. By the time, she arrived at the maternity ward, she was almost fully dilated, says Sanju.
 
The woman made it to the delivery room and only moments later, Sanju was holding the babies who were each barelytwo kilograms.“I was so happy to do this,” she says now. “I had no regrets about joining this field, because it is so good to help children and their mothers. It gives me a lot of pride.”
 
Sanju, now 24,delivered about 200 babies last year,and is just one of dozens of young midwivesstriving to make a difference in Madhya Pradesh, where the infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in India.
 
Now with UNICEF’s support, the state government has created a network of health sub-centres offering around-the-clock, safe delivery services to women from remote villages who otherwise would be at greater risk giving birth at home.
 
In Sanju’s maternity ward, new mother Reena Dhakad, 20, smiles from underneath a heavy blanket as she tends to her baby boy born just two hours earlier. Her mother-in-law, Ramkali, 49, says the sub-centre services are far superior to the days when women gave birth on the floor at home. If mother or child had difficulties, many died, she says.
 
“Previously we had no choice but to go to district hospital which was more than 50 kilometers away,” says Ramkali.

Sanju Kaim, 24 has delivered about 200 babies last year and she is just one of dozens of young midwives striving to make a difference in Madhya Pradesh, where the infant and maternal mortality rates have long been among the highest in India.

Kilometres away at another sub-centre in Fatehgarh village, nurse-midwife, Niranjana Parihar, 25, tends to new mother, Panabai Saharia, 20, and her baby girl swaddled in bright red, yellow and green scarves.
 
“When she arrived she was quite afraid but now she is happy and is taking things well,” Niranjana says of the girl. The young nurse-midwife speaks with the authority of someone who has already delivered at least 600 babies.
 
Niranjana was barely 21 when she first came to work at this sub-centre, which is one of the state’smost remote.There are no movie houses here, and she is far from her family.But she enjoys the work immensely and has the companionship of friend and fellow nurse, KamlaKaim, 27.
 
“We help each other at work and in our free time, we watch our daily TV soaps, or I sketch,”Niranjana says with a quiet smile.
 
“It is young service providers like Sanju and Niranjana who play a crucial role in making these programmes a success,” says Dr. Tania Goldner, chief of UNICEF’s Madhya Pradesh office. “Young service providers are making a difference and giving women and children a better chance of survival.”

 

 

 
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