Balancing the role of midwife and mother
In the suburbs of Banda Aceh, Rita Asmidar, a 33-year old midwife, is rushing through the rain toward the health post of Ulee Kareng sub-district, where she always starts her daily activities in the village of Ie Masen by reporting her attendance before opening the services in the Posyandu Plus (integrated health centre). Rita and her husband Rahmad Effendy live with their 2-year old daughter Nasywal Gadiza and their 11-year old son Attariq Agam Pachlevi in a part of the health centre building, separated from the examination rooms, but always close by and available for any emergencies.
The health centre in Ie Masen village is among those Posyandu Plus built by UNICEF with funding from the German Committee for UNICEF during the reconstruction phase in Aceh. These centres are intended to combine maternity services with essential health care, including immunizations, boosting nutrition and promoting healthy behaviour. The centre of Ie Masen village also provides learning activities for pre-school children which are managed by the community. Midwives like Rita have traditionally served as primary caregivers for families in Indonesia, especially in rural communities. “Several years ago the midwife had to go from door to door to visit pregnant women. But now the facilities and services are better and more patients come and visit the centres for basic health services”, says Rita. “Since our Posyandu Plus in Ie Masen opened, the response from the community has been very good,” she notes. “They really like the new building, especially the convenience and friendliness it offers when they come to check their health.”
While the Posyandu Plus in Ie Masen focuses mainly on the well-being of children and women, it also provides health services for all of the 2,017 inhabitants of the village. Between two duty calls Rita’s dedication to the community began after she had completed midwifery education in 1996. She was assigned to a remote village in the district of Aceh Selatan, where she originally comes from. In this rural area, neither electricity or transportation facilities were available while access to basic health services was difficult. Even pregnant women had to walk two hours to the next health centre for their pregnancy checks. Although facilities were very limited, Rita really enjoyed her work as a midwife as she knew that her service would contribute to saving the lives of mothers and children.
In 2009, when UNICEF handed over the Posyandu Plus to the Government, Rita was appointed as village midwife to Ie Masen village, in charge of providing health services to the community. For Rita, this was a great opportunity to re-start her career after several years as a full-time housewife and mother, accompanying her husband on a work assignment in Java, about 1,500 km away from Aceh. Before beginning her new assignment, Rita received a series of technical trainings from the district health office, supported by UNICEF, to refresh and enhance her skills and increase her capacity to treat her patients. With these new skills and the good equipment available at the Posyandu Plus, Rita is now more confident than ever to provide essential health services.
Being a midwife and a mother of two children at the same time is both a blessing and a challenge for Rita. Especially when her daughter Nasywal was diagnosed with cardiac abnormalities when she was only four months old and had to have two operations before her first birthday, Rita was of course very worried, and combining her two roles became increasingly difficult for her. Fortunately, her husband Rahmad fully supported her, helping to take care of little Nasywal and their young son Atttariq, so that Rita could still carry on her work as a midwife. Fortunately, the family also received financial assistance from the Government to cover the costs of Nasywal’s illness. Thanks to all this, Nasywal recovered and now is a completely healthy and happy girl. Rita is very grateful for all the help she received during these difficult times, as it allowed her to continue fulfilling her two tasks with patience and sincerity. “The support I received from my family is my biggest source of motivation to keep providing good services to the community.” Thanks to Rita’s dedication and her 24-hour availability, no maternal or child deaths were reported within the coverage area of the Posyandu Plus in Ie Masen in 2011. “Helping to save the lives of mothers and babies is a devotion which cannot be valued by money,” says Rita with her sincere smile.